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Wolves spoil Drakes Homecoming with heartbreaking loss

The Drakes wait anxiously for the ball to be snapped in a game filled with penalties. This was the beginning of one of those penalties.

The Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Wolves football team won their first game of the season Sept. 25 by defeating the Blackduck Drakes 34-14 at Sonnek Field to spoil the Drakes Homecoming.

The Wolves scored first, but the Drakes led 8-7 after the first quarter. However, 23 seconds into the second quarter, the Wolves took the lead for good. They led 21-14 at half and controlled the game in the second half to claim the victory.

The Drakes managed to put 24 players in uniform for homecoming, a 50 percent increase from a week ago, which equaled the number of players Walker dressed for the game.

The Drakes received the opening kickoff and picked up a pair of first downs moving the ball out to midfield. The front line of Logan Oelke, Nick Liapis, Alex Goodwin, Garette Roberts and Josh RedDay were able to open holes for fullback Nick Andreas, quarterback Mike Dexter and running back Alex Lossing. The Wolves defense keyed on Todd Kallroos and stymied his efforts outside though ends Jake Olafson and Lucas Krabbenhoft blocked well. The offense bogged down near midfield and the Drakes were forced to punt.

Senior Gabe Grimley returned Lossing's punt 56 yards to the Drakes 26 yard line and eight plays later the Wolves quarterback Blake Wiemann scored from the two yard line. The extra point kick gave the visitors a 7-0 lead. Fifteen seconds later, on the game clock, Kallroos scored for the Drakes with an 80 yard kick return. Though a penalty pushed the Drakes back to the eight yard line on the conversion attempt, Dexter threw a pass to Krabbenhoft for the two points to give the Drakes their first lead of the 2009 season, 8-7.

The Wolves came right back with Grimley running the ball and 33 yard reception by senior Brandon Zimmer to move the ball to midfield. The Blackduck defense in the first quarter was led by senior veterans Kallroos, Lossing, Olafson and Andreas. Three other seniors making their season debuts on defense were Zach Preston, Tyler Wentworth, and RedDay. Juniors Dexter, Liapis and Justin Bryant and sophomore Goodwin also recorded tackles in the first quarter.

After holding the Wolves to a third and nine situation, the Drakes defense got fooled by a half back pass from Grimley to Zimmer, setting up a first down at the 20 yard line. The Drakes again put on the brakes but on fourth and eight, quarterback Wiemann, after a nice scramble, dumped a short pass to Grimley who then advanced to the five yard line. On the next play, Grimley slid through the defense for a touchdown and then carried for the two point conversion to give Walker a 15-8 lead.

Blackduck's offense was unable to move the ball but a short punt was mishandled by Walker and the Drakes had another chance from near midfield. The offensive linemen were given short breathers with sophomore substitutes Butch Strand, Doug Palmer, Galen Martin, and Peter Fraley seeing intermittent action.

This time the home team was able to pick up a pair of first downs using the option play, where Dexter took advantage of the defense keying on Kallroos to gain several yards and by quick dives up the middle. A fumbled pitch and two incomplete passes ended the drive and Walker took over on their own 28 with five and a half minutes remaining in the first half.

The Wolves wasted little time as they took less than two minutes to drive 72 yards to score. Grimley did most of the damage as he slipped through the defense for 50 yards including his 16 yard touchdown run. Though the kick was low, Walker held a 21-8 lead with two and a half minutes remaining in the half.

Olafson recovered a short kick at the 40 yard line and then caught an eight yard pass on first down. A couple of short passes to Kallroos gave the Drakes a first down and Dexter picked up another first down at the Wolves 36 yard line with a quarterback sneak.

Krabbenhoft then pulled in an aerial that he carried to the one and Dexter snuck in on the next play to make the score 21-14. The pass on the conversion went incomplete but the Drakes recovered their second successful onside kick of the year to get the ball back. Unfortunately they could only muster a six yard gain before time ran out and went into half-time trailing 21-14.

"We held our own through the first half but two key plays really hurt us," said Blackduck Head Coach Jesse Hickman.

A long drive was stopped by an interception of a long pass and Walker returned a punt to the endzone putting the game a bit more out of reach. I think that if we could have those two plays back, the game would have ended differently," Hickman said.

On the opening possession of the second half the Drakes forced the Wolves to punt for the first time in the game. The tables were turned seconds later and Grimley fielded the punt and zigzagged his way 65 yards to pay dirt. The kick gave Walker a 28-14 lead. That play gave Walker the momentum which led to their victory.

The Drakes were unable to move the ball on their drive and punted. The excitement on the short return was when statisticians Erin Haws and Danielle Heide had to scramble out of the way as the play went out of bounds.

Penalties aided the defense in stopping the Wolves at the 14 yard line. James Campbell-Eckdahl knocked a pass away on fourth down to give the Drakes possession of the football. Dexter scrambled for a first down, Olafson caught a pass for a second, Krabbenhoft's catch and subsequent first down moved the ball into Wolves territory and Lossing pulled in an aerial to the 34 for a fourth first down. In a smart mix of plays Dexter then used a draw play to pick up a first down at the 17 as the third quarter ended.

The fourth quarter started with Grimley picking off a Dexter pass and racing 55 yards before RedDay saved a touchdown by pulling him down. On the sixth play after that, after four straight penalties, one against Blackduck ceding a first down, Grimley darted 33 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game. A wide kick left the score 34-14.

Dexter ran for a first down and Lossing's reception earned another one before an interception gave the ball back to the Wolves. The Wolves moved the ball to midfield as several younger players got some experience for both teams. Freshmen Brady Gross, Brad Kusper, Cory Bryant, Kip Solberg, and Zach Jones got into the action for the Drakes. The Wolves punted and then took over on downs. Martin stopped a touchdown with a tackle at the six yard line and Blackduck got the ball back. Fraley caught an eight yard pass in the waning seconds but the score remained 34-14.

Grimley was the difference in the game rushing for 150 yards and totaling about 350 all purpose yards. Dexter led the Drakes offensive attack carrying the ball 22 times for 92 yards and completing 13 of 30 passes for 128 yards. Team season rushing leader Andreas was held to only 11 yards in the game. Kallroos had five receptions for 33 yards, Lossing three for 31 yards, Krabbenhoft three for 49 yards, Olafson two for 15 yards and Fraley one catch for eight yards. Coach Hickman complimented first year player Oelke on his improvement on the line.

The addition of seniors Preston, RedDay and Wentworth, was very evident especially on defense. Wentworth, who has played football in past years, was one of the leading tacklers for the game. The size and maturity of the other two, compared to the sophomores who had been playing there, also made a huge difference on the defensive line. Coach Hickman named Liapis defensive player of the week for his work at defensive end. Other leading tacklers were Andreas, Olafson, Lossing, Goodwin, Dexter and Kallroos.

After coming off a loss, Hickman said he makes sure his team knows they did have successful points in the game to prepare them for the next.

"We examine what went poorly on our part that could have gone better first and then the coaches point out that we can improve on those things and know what to practice to be better the next week," he said.

As coach, Hickman says he has ways to pump himself up after a loss as well.

"I spend plenty of time examining game film from our opponent and re-working our playbook to find the blocking or defensive scheme that will give us the best opportunity," he said. "As always, I work with the other coaches to try to find the best ways to get the most out of our players talents and strengths so that they may reach their full potential."

Despite the loss, Hickman was still extremely proud of his team.

"Andreas and Preston really did a good job of closing up the middle of the field against the run. Dexter ran the ball well from the quarterback position and connected with Kallroos on several successful passes," Hickman said. "Key blocks from Liapis and Oelke as well as Olafson helped us move the ball on the ground early in the game. Lossing and Krabbenhoft also hauled in some important catches."

The Drakes play at Bagley Oct. 9 and then host Hawley at Sonnek Field Oct. 15 and close the season hosting Frazee Oct. 21.

" I really would like to express my appreciation for the support we have gotten from parents, fans and the Booster Club this year. We have had a tough schedule and have been few in numbers some Friday nights but we have been able to count on our fans. Keep it up," Hickman said.