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Football: Breckenridge tops WCA-A 34-20 on fog-covered field

Breckenridge sophomore Jacob Vizenor (far right) runs out of the fog and into the end zone in the fourth quarter of a 34-20 win over West Central Area-Ashby on Friday. The thick fog gradually rolled over the gridiron during the second half of the season opener in Barrett. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)1 / 3
West Central Area-Ashby sophomore Jaden Norby breaks loose for a 38-yard run in the first quarter of Friday's 34-20 loss to Breckenridge in Barrett. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)2 / 3
West Central Area-Ashby head coach Nate Wood (left) cheers after a score in the first half of Friday's 34-20 loss to Breckenridge in Barrett. The game was Wood's first as head coach of the Knights. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)3 / 3

Early in the third quarter of West Central Area-Ashby’s season opener against Breckenridge, a thick fog rolled in and created a movie-like atmosphere under the return of fresh Friday night lights.

The stage was set. The fourth-quarter clock winded down as the Knights started driving in search of the game-tying score. The fog continued to roll in, and the stakes of each play continued to rise.

“(The fog) added that almost movie-type feel,” WCA-A head coach Nate Wood said. “Tonight had all the aspects of a good football movie: The offense is knocking on the door. (They’ve) got to make a defensive stand. Can you punch it in?”

Without the Hollywood script, though, the Knights couldn’t pull off the unlikely dramatics in the clutch. They ultimately fumbled the ball away midway through the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys flipped it on them for the game-sealing touchdown in a 34-20 final in Barrett.

“That was both the good and bad part about this game: It was a tough, hard-fought battle, and we just came up on the short side,” said Wood. “You always want to be in position where you can get that big play to win. Sometimes you execute, and sometimes you don’t. We didn’t tonight. … Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.”

The fate-sealing fumble came with 6 minutes, 41 seconds to play in a 27-20 game, and the Breckenridge defense fell on top of it at midfield to take over. WCA-A was a play from forcing a three-and-out on third-and-13, but a long pass into the fog moved the chains into the red zone. It set up Jacob Vizenor to bounce a run outside and reach the end zone on a 12-yard rush several plays later.

In desperation mode, the Knights went for a fourth-and-4 in their own territory with just over two minutes remaining, but the run was stuffed short for the final nail in the coffin.

“It’s really hard to keep your head up when you are doing your job and then something bad happens,” Wood said. “But I thought our boys handled it well. They didn’t quit, they didn’t let that get to them. But it still makes it tough.”

Breckenridge set the tone early, opening up with a 26-yard touchdown connection from Cooper Yaggie to Caden McGough midway through the first quarter. The Knights answered back quickly, though, as Isaiah Sykora muscled into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal quarterback sneak from the 2. WCA-A had blocked the Cowboys’ extra point attempt, and they converted a 2-point conversion on a Tate Christenson reception for an 8-6 edge after one.

Breckenridge took back the lead early in the second quarter. Hunter Feigum cut over the middle for a catch and went untouched past the goal line from 21 yards out, and then he caught a 14-8 advantage after another reception on a 2-point conversion.

The score held into halftime, but the Knights once again battled back into a tie when Braden Overson broke loose down the sideline for a 41-yard scamper into the end zone.

It didn’t last for long, however. Late in the third, McGough faked a reverse on a punt return and sliced through the coverage for a touchdown and a 21-14 Cowboy advantage. And even when WCA-A scored again -- this time with Jaden Norby bulldozing his way into the end zone on a 10-yard rush -- the 2-point conversion failed and kept Breckenridge in the lead at 21-20.

The difference grew to 27-20 when Jaxon Wienbar caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with eight minutes remaining. The missed extra point kept the Knights within seven, but their fumble on the following drive closed the curtain on their Hollywood ending.

Third downs became a big problem for WCA-A all night, as the defense struggled to get off the field. The issue was most prevalent just after the fumble, still with 4:30 remaining, when Breckenridge converted on the third-and-13 to set up the game’s final touchdown.

“We did something good, did something good, did something good,” Wood said. “Now you’ve got to get off the field as a defense. We couldn’t quite take that next step to put them away.”

The loss puts West Central Area-Ashby at 0-1 on the young season, but they’ll study the tape in hopes of making necessary changes for week two.

“The next step is getting in the film room,” Wood said. “Look at things we did well, look at the things we need to work on. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. … Like we told our boys tonight, you win or you learn. Tonight we learned.”

The Knights return to action at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, against United North Central in Sebeka.

Breckenridge 34, West Central Area-Ashby 20

WCA-A 8 0 6 6 - 20

BRE 6 8 7 13 - 34

Micah Friez

Micah Friez covers Bemidji State basketball and BSU for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Beaver basketball updates.

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