Our Northwest Game of the Week saw both teams come into Friday night with matching 4-1 records, but only one was going to leave with playoff eligibility under their belt. For the casual fan, this game lived up to the billing, but for the fans of either team, they might want to check their finger nails to see if they are still there as this one came down to the last drive of the game.
It was Dakota, celebrating their homecoming in front of a large crowd, who would strike first after choosing to receive the ball to start the game. Beginning their drive with good field position at their own 41 yard line, the Indians went to work on the ground as they usually do. However, the ground game just wasn't there as the Thunder defense was quick to the ball, so the Indians tried the air. Indian QB Kyle Bordner found Trey Engelbrecht on a 16 yard connection to push the ball over midfield, and on Bordner's next pass he found Brock Duncan on a quick slant pass over the middle as Duncan was off to the races for a 37 yard TD pitch and catch. A Nolan Lentz PAT try was good, and Dakota had a 7-0 lead with 8:57 to go in the 1st quarter.
Dakota would force West Carroll into back to back 3 and out possessions, pinning the Thunder inside their own 25 yard line on both drives. Dakota went to work on their 2nd drive, but it ended at the West Carroll 19 after a 4th down try was snuffed out by the Thunder defense. Dakota's 3rd drive would result in their own 3 and out and force Dakota to punt, pinning West Carroll on their own 24 yard line. Without gaining a yard, but running time off the clock, West Carroll QB Kody Plattenberger would drop back to pass, but the pass was tipped into the hands of Indian defender Aden Cassidy.
Dakota would start the possession on the West Carroll 42 yard line, but 7 yards later they turned the ball over on downs on a failed 4th and 2 try that resulted in a 1 yard loss. The Thunder went back to the air as Kody Plattenberger found his brother Kaleb on their first connection of the night for 12 yards and into Dakota territory. But, Plattenberger's next pass would once again be tipped and this time it was Dakota's Brock Duncan who would find the ball in his hands, and he would return the interception for a TD, but it was called back after a block in the back penalty.
The Indians would go back to the ground game behind Engelbrecht, Cassidy, and Mason Peters and drive deep into Thunder territory, but as the time ticked away Dakota reached the Thunder 17 yard line with seconds remaining in the half, facing a 4th down, and would attempt a Lentz 34 yard FG try, but it was no good, and the Indians would hold onto their 7-0 lead into the half.
Despite dominating the first half, Dakota had 162 total yards to West Carroll's 29 yards at the break, West Carroll was still within a score to open the 2nd half with the ball. The 3rd quarter was a defensive struggle, as both teams would trade punts back and forth 3 times without much movement on the offensive side of the ball as Dakota clung to their 7-0 lead heading into the 4th quarter.
West Carroll would open the 4th quarter pinning the Indians at their own 10 yard line and forcing a punt, which resulted in the Thunder gaining their best starting field position of the night at their own 46 yard line. Kody Plattenberger would quickly strike through the air, finding Jacob Dunk for 21 yards to give the Thunder life at the Dakota 33 yard line, but a sack on the following play set them back to the Dakota 39 yard line. That is when the Plattenberger to Plattenberger connection struck, as Kody found Kaleb on the left seam for a 39 yard TD strike with 8:20 left to go in the game. Coach Leitzen chose to go for the lead, going for the 2 point try from the spread, Kody Plattenberger took the snap, rolled out to his left and cut up off the left tackle and into the end zone to give West Carroll an 8-7 lead.
This led to both teams chewing up almost 5 minutes off the clock and forcing each other into quick 3 and out possessions. Dakota would set up right at midfield, but after a 4 yard loss by Engelbrecht, Bordner went to the air, only to find the Thunder's Jacob Dunk on the other side of the ball as he would return the interception to the Dakota 29 yard line with 2:56 to play. Dakota's defense was up for the challenge once again, as they only allowed West Carroll 1 yard and forced them to turn the ball over on downs at the Dakota 28 yard line with 2:26 to play.
Before the drive began, Coach Free huddled with his team and appeared to point at the line of cars leaving the game early, thinking the game was over, and the Indians looked poised to prove them wrong. Shaking off the interception on his previous throw, Bordner went back to work through the air, connecting on his next 4 throws, a 22 yard completion to Carter Drake, then a 12 yard connection to Brock Duncan, another 18 yards to Drake, followed by a Duncan connection for 13 yards, setting up Dakota inside the Thunder 20 yard line. Engelbrecht would run the ball for 5 yards setting up Dakota at the 10 yard line with 27 seconds to go in the game. From there Coach Free would call on Lentz again for the go ahead FG try from 27 yards out. After a fury of time out calls to try and ice Lentz and make him think about what was going on, the snap was on its way, and Lentz connected right down the middle, pushing Dakota back into the lead 10-8 with 21 seconds left to go.
West Carroll would take control at their own 49 yard line with 18 seconds remaining. A quick 9 yard pass from Plattenberger to Plattenberger would move the ball to the Dakota 42, but 2 more failed pass attempts would seal the win for the Indians in dramatic fashion, as the FG by Lentz proved to be the game winner.
Leading the way for the Indians was Kyle Bordner, as he would go 8 for 15 passing for 142 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. His targets were Brock Duncan, who finished with 3 receptions for 62 yards and 1 TD, and Carter Drake who also hauled in 3 passes for 53 yards. Trey Engelbrecht led the ground attack with 69 yards on 18 carries, while Mason Peters chipped in 59 yards rushing on 14 attempts, and Aden Cassidy gained 36 yards on 6 attempts. Nolan Lentz would finish the night 1-2 on FG attempts, with his 27 yard game winner making him the hero of the night. Dakota would finish with 142 yards passing, 155 yards rushing, and 297 total yards of offense, while overcoming 75 yards in penalties.
West Carroll found their only offense through the air, as Kody Plattenberger was 8 for 22 passing for 121 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT. His brother Kaleb Plattenberger was his leading target, hauling in 4 passes for 79 yards and 1 TD, while Jacob Dunk caught 2 passes for 37 yards. On the night, West Carroll would finish with -22 yards rushing, 121 yards passing, and 99 yards of total offense.
Dakota (5-1) @ Amboy (2-4) | West Carroll (4-2) @ EPC (4-2)