BRITT — The district was there for the taking. Or least a huge step toward that was for the West Hancock football team Friday night vs. St. Ansgar.
In a game that saw three lead changes in the final 11 minutes, it was the Saints, though, who came out with a touchdown with just over two minutes to play, and the defense held to secure a 21-10 victory over the Eagles in an instant classic. The win locked up a fourth straight district tile for St. Ansgar.
For West Hancock, it was a locker room full of disappointment on a night when it was so close to what it was after.
“I really like our kids,” Sanger said. “I really like the way we play, I like our physicalness and I just like everything about it. We just have to figure out how to put it together for the best. We’ve changed a lot from the first two games of the season and we’re going the right way.”
It was clutch play after clutch play for both sides all the way down to the final minute.
After playing to an 8-8 tie through one half, West Hancock’s defense made one of its biggest stop of the season late in the third quarter to hold St. Ansgar out of the end zone on fourth-and-1 at the 1. The Eagles followed that up with a 99-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a 71-yard run by MaCoy Yeakel and capped off with a four-yard score from Tate Hagen with 23 seconds to play in the third.
This was just the start of the craziness that was the final 12-plus minutes of the game.
St. Ansgar answered on its next drive with a 4-yard touchdown run by Kramer, and the extra point by Jack Mendoza gave the Saints a 15-14 lead.
Not to be outdone, West Hancock grabbed the lead with 5:30 to go on a 16-yard pass from Chase Eisenman to Hagen on a fourth-and-16 in what seemed to be a must-score moment for them as well.
Trailing 25-20 with 5:30 to play, St. Ansgar marched methodically down the field, and a 35-yard pass from Kramer to Nicholas Bork provided the spark. Sophomore Jack Sievert dived in a few plays later for the go-ahead score with 2:11 to play.
West Hancock had one last chance with the ball after the St. Ansgar score, but a pass on 4th down from the Saints’ 38 fell incomplete and all that was left was the celebration.
"We felt we could win this but we knew we were going to have to earn it," Sanger said.
Yeakel had another outstanding night running the ball for the Eagles as he led all players with 239 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Haggen added 66 yards on 18 carries and Josef Smith had 48 yards on 12 carries.
Caleb Eckels led the Eagles' defense with nine total tackles while Hunter Hagen recorded eight, including two for a loss. Gavin Becker had an interception.
Wet Hancock (5-3, 5-1) has a crucial game at Nashua-Plainfield next Friday. Both teams are tied at 5-1 in district play.
"That’s the only thing right there is now we’re going to put that game on the line," Sanger said. "Our point total is going to be the best it can possibly be for the third position but we’re not looking. We’re going to have to be ready to play Nashua."