By Jon Watje
The Minco Bulldogs were just yards away from taking the lead and possibly advancing past Afton in th
e Class A quarterfinals, but the Eagles held on to win the game, 23-20.
Trailing 23-20 with about five minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs managed to drive the ball down to Afton’s three-yard line. Minco had a couple chances to punch the ball in the endzone to reclaim the lead, but were not successful as they turned the ball over on downs with about four minutes left.
“We were not able to get Afton off the field after that and they ended up winning the game,” said Minco coach Brock Wardlaw. “It was a very tough loss.”
With kicking issues all year long, Coach Wardlaw said kicking a field goal to tie the game was out of the question. For about half the season, Minco abandoned the extra point after touchdowns and attempted to go for two points after every touchdown, including this game.
Afton scored first in the game and missed the extra point to lead 6-0 before Minco scored on a 25-yard touchdown run by senior Tucker Halstead. Minco was unsuccessful in getting the two-point conversion and the game was tied 6-6.
Afton scored another touchdown and led 12-6. They would add on a field goal to go up 15-6, which was the score at halftime.
Senior quarterback Shannon Williams would score on a one-yard touchdown run to make it a 15-12 game.
The Bulldogs played the Eagles tough all game long and Minco’s defense would get in on the scoring as senior Shannon Williams intercepted a pass and took it back 78 yards for a touchdown with about seven minutes left in the third quarter to give Minco a 20-15 lead after the successful two-point conversion.
However, Afton would not go away.
“They have a quarterback who is a stud and can run like a deer,” Wardlaw said. “They kept running him to the right and left and it was very hard to stop.”
The Eagles reclaimed the lead late in the third quarter, scoring a touchdown with a two-point conversion to lead 23-20.
In the fourth quarter, Minco had its chance deep in the redzone, but failed to capitalize as Afton held on to win the game, 23-20.
Wardlaw said he was very proud of his team despite the tough loss.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these kids,” he said. “They beat a lot of expectations and they got farther than most thought they would. This is just the sixth Minco team to make it to the quarterfinals.”
Minco has four seniors on the team: Charles Sanders, Hayden Hines, Shannon Williams and Tucker Halstead.
“This was the first year for Charles to start and he played both ways and did a great job,” Wardlaw said. “He was very solid defensively.”
Hines broke his collarbone during the regular season and was Minco’s go-to receiver before his injury.
“Shannon got better and better at throwing the ball as the season went on,” Wardlaw said. “Tucker was the heart and soul of this team and he will be missed next year.”
Despite the loss of their leaders and seniors, Wardlaw said he is excited to get back to work next season.
“We have a bunch of younger players that will give us a lot of depth next year,” he said.