MADISON, SD- Both the Blue Hawks and Trojans stepped on the field know that this was a critical game. The Trojans, ranked 25 in the NAIA polls, had an opportunity to knock of the Blue Hawks for the conference championship and an opportunity at the playoff. For the Blue Hawks, ranked 15, the goal was the same, conference championship and a potential playoff appearance.
Those attitudes were evident throughout the game at Trojan field Saturday afternoon. The Trojans began with the ball and made it very clear they were ready to play, scoring on the first play from scrimmage with a long pass. The Blue Hawks were able to respond quickly in their first drive that finished with a rushing touchdown for Karsten Mack Jr.
For the rest of the first half the defenses of both teams showed why they are two of the best in the North Star Athletic Association. The teams remained knotted up at 7's until the Trojans put together a drive late in the half, taking the lead into the intermission 14-7.
Coming out with the first opportunity to score the Blue Hawks did exactly that. Another Mack touchdown tied things up. The Blue Hawk defense shut down the Trojans attack to a three-an-out, forcing a punt. On their next drive, it appeared the Blue Hawks would also be punting until freshman punter Hunter Johnson kept the ball and sprinted for the first down, keeping the drive alive. It paid off, several plays later Hayden Gibson connected with Seth Ewoniuk in the end zone for another Blue Hawk touchdown, giving them their first lead of the game 21-14.
The Blue Hawk defense continued to play strong, leading their team into the fourth quarter with a lead.
The Trojan tacked on a field goal early in the fourth, narrowing the margin to 21-17. But, back with the ball the Blue Hawks struck again, a monster 32 yard run to the end zone for Mack. The teams swapped possession and the ball ended up with the Trojans with three minutes remaining in the game. With urgency, the Trojans put together a quick drive and two-point conversion to cut the lead to 3. The Trojans, with no timeouts remaining, hope was in an onside kick. An excellent attempt from Trojan kicker Brywn Ractliffe ended in a scrum and the Blue Hawks were able to gather it and seal the game.
The Blue Hawk defense was highlight by Tommy Sease who was able to block two kicks in the game, which proved to be very crucial in the outcome. Mack led the Hawks on the ground tallying 206 yards and 3 touchdowns, 179 of his yardage came in the second half. Gibson was 15 for 27 through the air for 192 yards. Gibson connected with Chase Anderson and Ewoniuk each four times, Ewoniuk have the lone receiving touchdown.
The game clinches the North Star Athletic Association conference title for the Blue Hawks, their third in a row. The win puts the Blue Hawks at 8-1 on the year, 7-0 in conference play.
A Look Ahead: The Blue Hawks will take a bye week before taking on the Mayville Comets at home November 11. The matchup will be the Blue Hawks second matchup against Mayville this year, winning 52-7 previously. The game will also be the Blue Hawks final of the 2017 regular season.