A sweet homecoming
Come from behind win ups Aggies record 2-0.
With just over eight minutes to play the Aggie defense needed a big play. The score was tied at 12, a fourth-and-two for the L-E-DP Raiders from their own 35-yard line stood between a Raider first down, possible overtime or a game-changing play.
The Aggie’s Zach Gaarder and Esten Beneda teamed up and stopped the Raiders’ Robb Kuchar a yard short of a first down and the Aggies took over first and ten inside Raider territory. Four plays later Levi Cudmore fired a halfback pass to Noah Zimmerman who got free behind the defense for a 29-yard touchdown. Cadyn Hunter added the conversion and the Aggies had what would be the winning score on the board to seal the game at 20-12.
Throughout this region 11-man match-up, the teams battled tooth and nail. At first it looked like it could be a scorefest. Hunter returned the opening kickoff forty-two yards to the Raiders 37-yard line. A 15 yard pass from Hankey to Beneda on third down kept the drive alive and then two plays later Abe Hankey ran untouched into the end zone on a quarterback draw from 22 yards out.
The Raiders answered immediately with a drive of their own. They ran it at the Aggies to the tune of four, six or eight yards at a time. The Raiders stalled momentarily and faced a fourth and four from the Aggie 35-yard line. Dylan Donahue took a pass from Chris Brogden to move the yard markers for a fifth time in the drive. Four plays later Kuchar ran for a 10-yard touchdown. Both teams missed their extra point opportunities and the score was knotted at 6-6.
On the ensuing Aggie possession, PR-F-L moved the ball downfield again. Another big run by Hunter sparked the drive when he found a seam around the right side and danced down the sideline for a 35-yard gain to the Raider 25-yard line. On the following play, Hankey, started left, then cut back all the way across the field for a 25-yard touchdown run. The play was called back however on an illegal block by PR-F-L.
That penalty seemed to do double duty. Not only did it take away the score but from that point on, until midway through the fourth quarter, the Aggies offense sputtered. “The penalty was a big blow, but we were pretty tired after that first quarter,” Aggie coach Robert Goll said. “I really think the homecoming activities we had today took a lot out of us tonight, I am really glad homecoming is over.”
The Raiders took over after the penalty and ran the ball effectively and efficiently downfield. A ten play, 51-yard drive was culminated in a 12-yard Drew Aronson run. The conversion failed putting the Raiders up 12-6.
A special teams’ mishap led to the next score of the game. After PR-F-L went three and out, they gave the ball back to L-E-DP. Their drive also went three and out and on their only punt attempt of the game, the snap went over the punters’ head and the Aggies recovered the ball at the Raider 35-yard line as time was running out in the second quarter. With 7 seconds to play in the half and the ball on the 35-yard line, Levi Cudmore got open at the 10 yard line, caught a Hankey pass and ran it into the end zone for the tying score. The half ended in a 12-12 deadlock.
After a quiet third quarter, the Aggie defense proved to be the difference in the fourth. A big stop on fourth down by Gaarder and Beneda gave the ball back to the Aggies that led to the Cudmore to Zimmerman touchdown play to put the Aggies up 20-12. The defense sealed the win with big plays by Zimmerman and Cudmore. Zimmerman’s hard hitting play along with a key interception by Cudmore with 5:51 to play had the Raiders stalling out on every drive. The Aggies found themselves deep in Raider territory after runs by Hankey and Damon Flaten, add in an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Raiders and the Aggies found themselves on a fourth and short at the Raiders 12-yard line. The Aggies attempted the first down but were stopped short. With 2:11 to play the Raiders had one last chance and 88 yards to go. A Zach Gaarder quarterback sack preceded a Raiders quarterback sweep down the sidelines that Beneda ran down on the game’s final play, securing the Aggies’ second win of the year.
“After the first 4 minutes of the game, I thought we controlled the tempo and the line of scrimmage but special teams’ breakdowns and fumbles in the second half cost us scoring opportunities and we gave one to Park River. We out gained Park River by about 100 yards total and didn’t win game. Give credit to Park River-F-L for finding a way to win,” said Raiders’ coach Joe Harder.
The Aggies travel to Larimore this Friday in the state’s marquee match-up in Class A football.