The NUIC game of the week pits the #6 state ranked Forreston Cardinals (6-1) traveling to Aquin. The Bulldogs are ranked 7th in the state AP rankings and are 7-0. Last week the Cardinals lost to #1 state ranked Le-Win 48-14, while Aquin defeated AFC 48-14. The NUIC South title could be decided in this game if the Bulldogs were to win since no other South Division team has won more than 5 games. Both teams are good on either side of the ball, as Aquin has allowed 212 total defensive yards per game and accumulated 362 yards on offense. The Cardinals have allowed 236 yards on defense and gained 417 yards per game.
The teams rack up their yards quite differently, where Forreston runs a ground heavy game and looks to catch opposing defenses stacking the box by running play action passes that are meant to throw opponents napping. Aquin features a great dual threat in QB Will Gustafson and equally good RB Ty Stykel. This game will not only decide the NUIC South, but it will also help both teams in their playoff rankings and AP polling positions.
Friday nights big NUIC South match-up did not disappoint. While both teams are polar opposites in how they run their offenses the level of skill from both teams was very equal. Aquin took the ball in right away and ran an eight play 63 yard scoring drive that featured QB Will Gustafson, RB Ty Stykel, and WR Brennan Carlson. Stykel took a hand off in the pistol formation and ran for a 13 yard score to make the score after the extra point 7-0 Aquin.
Forreston wasted no time taking the ball 67 yards on their next possession for their own scoring drive. The drive consisted of 13 plays all ran on the ground. Six different rushers touched the ball keeping the Aquin defense guessing on who would get the call next for the Cardinals. The Forreston offensive line created huge holes to run through and the quick hitting double wing formation kept the Bulldog defense on their heels. Ethan Mulder finished off the drive by taking a handoff 3 yards for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion was good making the score 8-7 Forreston.
Forreston forced a quick three and out from the Bulldogs on Aquin's next possession. It looked like the Cardinals were going to cap off another drive with a touchdown, but Aquin was able to force a fumble on the 2 yard line to keep the Cardinals out of the endzone. The first quarter finished up at 8-7 Forreston.
Aquin had the ball to start the 2nd and completed an eight play scoring drive with a huge pass from Gustafson to Carlson in the endzone for a 37 yard pass completion. The Bulldogs wide receiver took the Cardinals aggressive cornerback play and used it against them running a hitch and go pattern that left him wide open. After the extra point the score was now 14-8 Aquin.
Forreston would not be phased though; on their very next drive they spread out the ball carrier touches again for a 58 yard touchdown drive that was capped off by another Mulder touchdown dive. The score after the successful 2 point conversion was 16-14 Forreston.
On the ensuing kickoff Forreston caught the Dawgs napping with an onside kick recovery. With 5:54 remaining in the 2nd, Forreston put together another all-rushing drive that resulted in Mulder's 3rd rushing TD in the first half. The score after a 2 point conversion that failed was 22-14 Forreston.
In the 3rd both teams defenses' were able to tighten up until Aquin got the ball on a turnover on downs with 6:36 remaining in the 3rd. Once again the Bulldogs terrific trio was able to work the ball down the field and then Gustafson was able to connect with Christian Becke in the endzone for a touchdown giving the Junior his first TD catch in 2019. The 3rd quarter ended with the score knotted up at 22.
The first play in the 4th was a Forreston punt that was initially returned for an 85 yard touchdown by Gustafson, but a block in the back penalty got the return called back. Aquin still had possession and did not let the penalty kill their momentum. After a huge 20 yard run by Gustafson, pass interference was called on the Cardinals which was made worse by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on Forreston's coaching staff. The ball was now on the Cardinal 9 yard line. Three plays later Gustafson found Andrew Bowman in the endzone for a touchdown. The extra point was tacked on making the score 29-22.
The first play of the Cardinals next drive Bailey Cullor was intercepted as Aiden Gassman returned the interception for a touchdown. The score after the extra point was now 36-22.
Backs up against the fence Forreston responded by driving the ball 63 yards for a touchdown, this time delivered on a 10 yard touchdown run by Braden Politsch. The Cardinals added a 2 point conversion making the score 36-30 Aquin.
Just 3:51 remained in the game when Aquin took possession of the ball. They were able to get one first down and ice the game and run out the clock capping off an impressive victory, a 36-30 win over the Cardinals.
Aquin secured the NUIC South division crown and effectively jump Forreston in the state 1A seedings with their win. The game was a well fought game that looked more like a playoff tilt rather than a week 8 Friday night match up.
Aquin moves to 8-0 on the season and will host West Carroll (5-3) next week to finish out the 2019 regular season. Forreston will host the EPC Wildcatz (4-4) to finish off their regular season, as EPC will be chomping at the bit trying to get into the playoffs.