Trailing 21-0 in the first half is something that unfortunately hasn’t been anything new for Red Wing this season.
But instead of rolling over against Chanhassen, the Wingers scored 20 straight points and gave the Storm all they could handle in Wednesday’s regular-season finale.
“We played our hearts out, I don’t know what else to say besides that,” said defensive end/offensive tackle Nick Connelly. “We had nothing to lose, we went out there, flew around on defense, and we did our job on offense. “
Red Wing cut the deficit to 21-20 in the third quarter before Chanhassen pulled away to secure a 41-27 victory in the final Missota Conference game for both teams.
With section play coming up Tuesday, Wednesday’s come-from-behind effort was the kind of boost the Wingers needed before the postseason.
“I told them after the game that we’ve gotten better each week, which is what our goal has been all season,” said Red Wing head coach Matt Schultz. “They fought a lot more than Chanhassen thought they were going to. We put ourselves in a position to pull one out there. … Still, it would have been nice to win that one.”
The Storm (6-2, 6-1 Missota) wasted little time jumping out to a lead, scoring on three of their first four possessions on a 7-yard run by Nathan Johnson and a 20-yard touchdown pass from Joe Rosburg to Kenyon Brannon. Then with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half, Rosburg punched in a 1-yard quarterback keeper to make it 21-0 Chanhassen.
Trying to beat the halftime buzzer, the Wingers (0-8, 0-7 Missota) went into the no-huddle offense and moved the ball seamlessly against the Storm’s defense. The hurried drive culminated in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Isaac Toivonen to Ben Miller to make it 21-7 with 2:41 left in the first half.
“That no-huddle, that was a nice change of pace for us tonight,” said Miller, who hauled in seven catches for 74 yards and two scores.
Looking to go back up by three scores, Chanhassen looked like it would score again when they returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the Red Wing 35-yard line. Getting closer to the end zone, the Wingers’ defense stuffed the Storm on third down at the 21-yard line. A field goal try by Xander Neve went wide, giving Red Wing the ball back at the 20.
Despite playing a three-man front against one of the Missota’s biggest offensive lines, Red Wing’s defensive ends, Connelly and Jeremy Banks, were able to find penetration into the Chanhassen backfield. Banks had two sacks, and Connelly finished with a team-high 15 tackles, all while going up against the Storm’s Division I O-line prospect, Frank Ragnow, for most of the game.
“Playing against someone who’s going to be D-I, it’s fun,” Connelly said. “I went in with the mentality that I got nothing to lose and he’s got everything to lose against me, so I’m going to give it my all and go 100 percent the whole time and see what he can give me.”
On the Wingers’ next possession, Toivonen threw a strike to Ryan Jonas in the middle of the field for a 65-yard touchdown.
Even after the score, Jonas wasn’t done making plays.
On the ensuing kickoff, Chanhassen muffed the kick return and Jonas recovered the ball at the Storm’s 34-yard line. The takeaway set up another Toivonen-to-Miller touchdown from four yards out, making it 21-20.
“I could feel the momentum switch a lot,” Miller said of Jonas’ string of plays. “Everyone was getting jacked up on the sideline and in the huddle, and the O-line was out there hitting people. Things were clicking right then and there.”
Wanting to get out of Red Wing with a win, Chanhassen scored on its next three drives, with a 2-yard run from Cole Kirchoff, a 7-yard run from Johnson and an 8-yard score from Raymonte Maynard to make it 41-20. The Storm ran for 359 rushing yards, led by Johnson’s 129 yards on 21 carries.
After Maynard’s touchdown, the Wingers’ kickoff unit tacked on one more score as Jakob Meyer sprinted down the left side for a 75-yard touchdown with 4:02 left in the game.
While Wednesday’s regular-season finale was one of the best games the winless Wingers have played all season, it did not come without some trouble. Late in the fourth, Isaac Toivonen injured his left shoulder, the same shoulder that kept him out of action last year. If he can’t go in Tuesday’s Section 1AAAA opener, Miller will play at quarterback, Schultz said.
“This will be my fourth quarterback this year,” Schultz said. “We’ll play with the guys we got.”
And after showing some life against the Storm Wednesday, the Wingers are elated to have something to build off of in the postseason.
“If we keep this momentum, we can beat anybody we play,” Connelly said. “This is just motivating us for the next game.”