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Football: Goodhue falls in last-minute heartbreaker

Goodhue running back Riley Huemann (36) stiff-arms Hayfield defender Mason Moreno during the first half of Friday’s Week Zero game at Goodhue High School. Thanks to a last-minute touchdown by senior Cole Kruger, the Vikings came away with a 21-20 Southern Football Alliance Blue division victory over the Wildcats. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 3
Goodhue's Matt Deneen takes down Hayfield running back Tanner Johnston during the second half of Friday's Zero Week game in Goodhue.2 / 3
Goodhue's Cody Nord looks upfield during the opening kickoff of Friday's Zero Week game against Hayfield.3 / 3

GOODHUE – Hayfield’s Cole Kruger was scared that a victory would slip through his fingertips. 

Down 20-14 and perched at the 10-yard line with under a minute left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings faced fourth down. Hayfield quarterback Cameron Rutledge rolled left and found the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Kruger open near the end zone. As the ball got to him, Kruger got hit with a sudden fear.

“I had these new gloves on and they were really slippery,” Kruger said. “By the end of the game, 90 percent of the guys had just taken them off.”

Even if his equipment wasn’t quite cooperating, Kruger made the catch and got into the end zone with 52.4 seconds left in the game to cement a 21-20 Southern Football Alliance Blue division victory for the Vikings.

“The ball almost slipped out,” Kruger admitted. “Sometimes, you have to be lucky.”

While the Vikings snatched victory in the last minute, the Wildcats were lamenting over a game they had control of for the majority of the second half. 

After halting a nine-minute Hayfield drive at their 3-yard line with 1:39 remaining, all Goodhue had to do was get a first down and force the Vikings to burn their two time outs. But miscues forced the Wildcats to put up a weak punt that gave the Vikings the ball at the 21-yard line to set up the game-winning drive.

“All we needed was at least one first down,” said Goodhue head coach Tony Poncelet. “Then on one play, we went on the wrong snap, then he had some blocking miscues and we end up giving the ball right back to them.”

Game-changing plays late in both the first and second half crushed the Wildcats’ momentum throughout Friday’s Zero Week game. 

“We didn’t make the plays down the stretch and they did,” Poncelet said. “We had mental mistakes in key situations. Both of (Kruger’s) touchdowns were on fourth down and we knew it would go to him.”

With Hayfield trailing 14-7 as time winded down in the first half, Rutledge threw up a prayer down the right sideline towards Kruger. The senior playmaker came down with the ball and crossed the goal line as time expired for a 39-yard touchdown catch, tying the game at 14-14.

Kruger finished the night with 61 rushing yards and 58 receiving yards with two touchdowns.

“Cole Kruger is a stud, and we knew the ball would be going to him both times,” Poncelet said. “We knew it, and we would double-team him and he’d make the play.”

After getting embarrassed at the end of the first half, the Wildcats’ defense struck back in a hurry to start the third quarter. On Hayfield’s second drive, Goodhue senior linebacker Riley Huemann scooped up a fumble and raced 33 yards down the field for a score. 

Huemann accounted for all three of the Wildcats’ touchdowns, with rushing scores from three and five yards. He finished with 21 carries for 120 yards.

“Riley’s a player,” Poncelet said. “He made plays all over the field. We know what we’re getting from him night after night. He’s got the right mentality and he definitely made a difference tonight.”

In Hayfield’s next drive, Calvin Peterson snatched an interception in Vikings’ territory, but the Wildcats were unable to add to their lead.

Hayfield held the ball for nine minutes in the fourth quarter, but could not punch it in. But after forcing Goodhue to punt, the Vikings’ confidence didn’t waver before the final drive. And luckily for Hayfield, Kruger’s gloves didn’t fail him.

“We never got down; we knew we were in it until the end,” Kruger said. “We had a little luck, coach made the right play calls and Cameron made perfect throws all night.”

Rutledge finished 10-for-23 passing for 151 yards and two touchdowns, and Tanner Johnston led Hayfield on the ground with 14 carries for 47 yards and a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Goodhue quarterback Tyler Schumacher went 11-for-19 for 90 yards and an interception. His favorite target was Alex Thomforde, who had six grabs for 48 yards. 

The Wildcats (0-1, 0-1 SFA Blue) resume conference play next Friday at Kingsland. Hayfield (1-0, 1-0 SFA Blue) plays host to Southland next Friday.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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