Dover-Eyota got within a touchdown of tying or taking the lead twice, but Goodhue prevailed 34-20 in front of a large homecoming crowd Friday night.
The Wildcats and Eagles filled the first half with points. Longer, time consuming drives and a couple fourth-down stops was the story in the second half. Between the two teams, 20 points were scored in the first quarter, then 19 more in the second. Each team then only scored once in the entire second half.
“Second half we did much better because we settled down and knew our roles,” said head coach Tony Poncelet. “First half it just seemed like they were lining up all those guys in different spots as well. I thought as the game went on, guys adjusted more.”
The Wildcats did a good job making adjustments not just on defense, but offense too. While the defense adjusted as the game went on, the offense quickly saw running the ball up the middle was unsuccessful.
So, the Wildcats turned to Will Opsahl and Adam Poncelet to gain yards. Poncelet caught two passes for more than 30 yards, the second of which opened the scoring for the Wildcats on their first drive of the game.
Dover-Eyota went three-and-out and the Wildcats promptly scored on that drive too. Malakye Parker, who’s proven to be one of the better running backs in the conference this season, blew by the second line of defenders for an easy 13-yard run.
“Malakye has some elite speed. He's getting better every game this year,” Poncelet said. “We definitely relied on him.”
In the second half, the Wildcats turned to Parker and Ethan Matthees more, almost abandoning the pass. Parker continued to gain positive yards on tosses or off-tackle runs. Matthees ran between the guards.
“That first quarter, there was a lot of guys in the box. It was tough to get anything between the tackles. We were outnumbered there,” Poncelet said. “We're definitely a run-first team. As the weather starts changing, in fall in Minnesota you‘ve got to be able to run the ball.”
The Eagles consistently ran the ball, or used a designed quarterback rollout to either continue scrambling for yards or pass. They also ran a pitch option at times. All of this done with four wide receivers.
The Wildcat defense tightened up their coverage on the outside receivers and clogged the middle to force everything to the sidelines. Holding a two-possession lead, the Wildcat defense came up with fourth-down stops with 5:41 and 2:32 remaining in the game. Crucial to keep the Eagles from conjuring up a comeback and secure a homecoming win after having spent half of the third quarter on the field during the Eagles long drive.
Goodhue (3-1) stays at home to welcome Caledonia Friday, Oct. 1. The Warriors (1-3) lost to Lewiston-Altura 21-14 Friday night.
It’s possible a play to end the half meant nothing to how the rest of the game played out, but the Wildcats defense read the final Eagles play of the half beautifully. With 3 seconds remaining and the Eagles moving surprisingly quickly down the field, they were within distance for a possible touchdown. Wildcat Adam Poncelet intercepted a QB pass on a QB rollout. That interception kept the Wildcats lead at 27-12.
The Wildcats ran a preplanned running back pitch-and-throw on their first offensive play of the game. The Eagles missed the coverage and the play resulted in a 32 yards.
“That was just a homecoming thing to get the kids fired up. It was a positive play. It was for fun and we're out here to have fun.” - Tony Poncelet on the trick play to begin the game.
“The game has slowed down a lot for Will. This year he just sees everything develop in front of him. He's making the right reads. He's making the right checks.” - Poncelet on QB Will Opsahl’s progression from last year to this year.
Will Opsahl, 4-for-8, 79 yds, two TD, INT; Maddox O’Reilly, 1-for-1, 32 yards.
Malakye Parker, 22 att, 147 yds, two TD; Ethan Matthees, six att, 70 yards, TD; Maddox O’Reilly, seven att, 14 yds; Ethan Breuer, three att, 13 yds; Dylan Schafer, one att, 2 yds; Opsahl, 1 att, -1 yds.
Adam Poncelet, four rec, 90 yds, two TD; Tyson Christiansen, one rec, 21 yds.