Playing in what is considered the best 1A league in the state, EPC made it two conference titles in a row with a 26-7 win over Forreston. Afterwards, EPC Randy Asche had high praise for his opposition.
“Forreston (7-2, 5-2) is a good team. I think the winner between Lena-Winslow and Forreston is going to DeKalb,” Asche said.
Playing against a team that had a decisive physical advantage, the Cardinals managed to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter after stopping EPC on its first two possessions.
Facing a fourth-and-9 at midfield, Forreston faked the punt and up-back Robert DeVries connected with Brayden Wierzycki for a 23-yard gain. An unsportsmanlike penalty on EPC tacked 15 more yards on.
A first down at the 15-yard line soon became a fourth-and-20, but DeVries found Dylan Hensley streaking down the middle for a 24-yard pass reception. One play later, DeVries scored on a 1-yard run.
“We were flat in the first half,” said 6-3, 265-pound tackle Boden Brandt of EPC. “We have a big line, but aren’t physical enough yet. We need to get that fixed before next week.”
EPC responsed with a 65-yard scoring drive, the key play being a 31-yard run by Shawn Larak, whoalso scored from three yards out to tie the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
It was apparent early on that Forreston was not going to have success running between the tackles on
EPC’s beefy line that went from 250 to 290 pounds. Fullback Spencer Cruthis was held to 15 yards on 10 carries.
“We played with them,” Forreston coach Denny Diduch said. “Offensively, they took away our inside game; but we got the outside game going.”
Later the second quarter, Max Barkalow (4-for-77 yards) got loose on a rocket sweep for 49 yards and
Forreston looked to take a lead into halftime. However, Walter Ollie stopped Barkalow two feet short of a first down on a fourth-down pass reception with three minutes left in the half.
“That put us in hole,” Diduch said. “Their linebacker made a big play. We could have run the clock out and maybe gone up 14-7.”
Instead, Donny Groezinger scored in a 61-yard pass reception from Deven Herren and EPC took a 14-7 lead. Herren was nearly sacked before he got the pass off the Groezinger.
Ever the risk-taker, Diduch opted to go for it on his own 40-yard line on the first possession of the second half, but DeVries was sacked by Chase Giedd. DeVries was under pressure all night from the Wildcatz pass rush.
A pair of fumbled snaps between center and quarterback helped Forreston get the ball back on its own 23-yard line, though.
Taking eight minutes off the clock and running 19 plays, Forreston converted two fourth downs to advance to the red zone. EPC’s defense stiffened and a hurried DeVries threw an interception in the end zone to Mike Harrington, the smallest of the Wildcatz at 5-5, 140 pounds.
“We kept them in that drive with our mistakes, but our kids felt we could keep them out of the end zone,” Asche said.
Harrington’s pick seem to fire up his team, as it quickly marched downfield to take a 20-7 lead. Groezinger broke five tackles on a 24-yard touchdown run.
“We couldn’t get our offense going and that wore us down,” Forreston’s Ross Williams said. “Running that hurry-up offense gets them tired,” Herren said. “I think our conditioning showed in the second half.”
Both team made fourth-down stops on each other before the Wilcatz put the game away with a 2-yard touchdown by Groezinger late in the fourth quarter.
“They took away out fullback and we had to get adventurous in the second half,” Diduch said. “They’re just studs in the middle.”