One win from capping its complete-season turnaround from a year ago with a state tournament berth, a slow start dashed the Section 6AA championship aspirations of the Osakis football team in a 30-16 loss to Pillager at the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D., on Friday.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Pillager and how hungry they were, having been here last year and falling short,” Silverstreaks head coach Bill Infanger said. “They came out right away, and they had the momentum right out of the gate. That’s the thing we’re going to look back at: We gave them the two-touchdown lead before we really settled in and started getting our offense going.”
In the blink of an eye, the Huskies (10-1) were up two scores. Tucker Peterson opened the burst with a short touchdown rush less than four minutes in. The Pillager defense then forced a three-and-out and blocked the ensuing punt, taking over at the 19-yard line.
Luke Woidyla capitalized with a 3-yard touchdown rush, putting Osakis (8-3) in a 16-0 hole midway through the first quarter.
“We weren’t ready to play at their speed,” Infanger said. “I think it took a couple series for our guys.”
The Silverstreaks finally kicked into gear when Hunter Infanger raced outside and scored from 38 yards out, and Logan Hartshorn added the 2-point conversion on a successful rush. It was a much-needed answer for Osakis, who converted on two third-and-longs during the drive.
And even when Pillager turned a Luke Imdieke fumble into a 1-yard touchdown rush for Jack Bentson, the Silverstreaks fought back again when Jacob Backes scampered into the end zone from the 21-yard line, and another Hartshorn 2-point conversion made it a 24-16 ballgame.
But the Huskies held sturdy. On the first play of the ensuing drive, when Osakis immediately stuffed Woidyla on a rush up the middle, Woidyla shedded the would-be tacklers and broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown -- Pillager’s second score in as many minutes.
“They have two phenomenal backs who broke a lot of tackles today,” coach Infanger said. “The big negative, for me, that I would draw from the game is that I don’t think we tackled very well. I wish we could’ve found a way to do a better job of getting their backs on the ground.”
The Huskies took their 30-16 lead into the half and were primed to add to it when they marched down to the 1-yard line late in the third quarter. The Silverstreaks, though, held firm and forced a turnover on downs. Osakis then marched downfield and had a goal-to-go chance of its own.
However, the result was the same. Judah Beard intercepted Hunter Infanger on a fourth-down desperation pass that kept in tact the scoreless second half and all but finalized the day.
“We were moving the ball down the field, running the football and moving the chains consistently,” coach Infanger said. “We got down there… but first and second down, we didn’t get anything. That put us in a third-and-long, fourth-and-long.
“I don’t think it was much about that fourth down. A lot of desperation things happen. It’s more about first and second down, not being able to move the ball, which put us in (that) position.”
The Huskies took over and converted a pair of fourth-down rushes deep in their own territory, helping them run out the clock and hand Osakis the season-ending defeat.
The loss certainly stung the Silverstreak sidelines, but coach Infanger was still proud of the growth his team showed after going 2-7 in 2017.
“Playing in the new district that we have the last two seasons, and struggling last year going 2-7, having an 8-3 record this year shows a lot of growth,” he said. “I hope that our younger guys can learn from (this) and will be hungry going into next year, feeling like they have a little unfinished business themselves.”
Osakis graduates 10 seniors: Hartshorn, Backes, Jonathan Lara, Triston Stoetzel, Jarret Seela, Dominic Strom, Jacob Wielenberg, Matt Peikert, Brandon Hetland and Ben Duchene.
“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back who have now played in big games and had some big moments. I think that growth needs to continue,” coach Infanger said. “That’s the legacy I hope we can carry on for these seniors: that we can continue to grow from where they got us this year.”
PILLAGER 30, OSAKIS 16
OSAKIS 8 8 0 0 -- 16
PILLAGER 16 14 0 0 -- 30