A game between two top football teams in Class AA with a district title and No. 1 seed in the section potentially on the line figured to come down to the end in Osakis, and that’s what happened on Friday night against West Central Area-Ashby.

Osakis had a key fourth-quarter stop defensively, but it was the way that the Silverstreaks started that really stood out to head coach Bill Infanger.

Osakis led 14-0 in the first quarter. Tyson Hagedon ran in a 1-yard touchdown on the Silverstreaks’ opening drive before a Drew Imdieke 2-point conversion run. The Knights fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, and Osakis recovered and immediately turned it into points when Bauer Klimek converted an outside run into a 2-yard touchdown.

The Silverstreaks (6-1, 5-0 Midwest White District) needed almost every point they got in a 22-20 win over the fifth-ranked Knights (6-1, 5-1 Midwest White District).

Osakis sophomore quarterback Kyle Mages passes off to a receiver in the Silverstreaks' 22-20 win over West Central Area-Ashby on Oct. 15, 2021. 
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press
Osakis sophomore quarterback Kyle Mages passes off to a receiver in the Silverstreaks' 22-20 win over West Central Area-Ashby on Oct. 15, 2021. Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

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“For us to come out and get to that 14-0 lead and get confidence right away in our ability to run the football and control the game on the ground, I think that was the difference in the game,” Infanger said.

Osakis never trailed after that. The Knights got it as close as two points in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Evan Paulson found Carson Spangler wide open for a 70-yard touchdown catch and run. That came after WCA-Ashby had stopped Osakis on a 4th-and-2 to get a turnover on downs with almost 10:30 left in the game inside the Knights’ 10-yard line.

“We’re clicking a lot better in the passing game than we were to start the year,” WCA-Ashby head coach Nate Wood said. “Evan has put in a lot of time, film study and trying to improve as a quarterback. It’s really showing. Then we’ve got some good athletes who can go out and catch the ball. In high school football, it’s really nice being able to do that.”

Infanger knew the Knights had all the momentum at that point, and it forced him to make a decision. On Osakis’ ensuing drive, the Silverstreaks found themselves in 4th and less than a yard at their own 22-yard line.

“It was a snap decision,” Infanger said. “It was fourth and about half a yard maybe. We couldn’t punt from our 22 and give it back to them. Otherwise, we were going to be back in that same position, only down by 6 points. I trust our offense and our ability to pick up that half yard.”

Sophomore fullback Drew Imdieke got the yardage needed for the first down to extend the drive. Hagedon then busted off a 27-yard run.

“Maybe if it doesn’t work out, I’m really regretting it, but it did work out,” Infanger said. “It ended up being a turning point and getting us some momentum back. It flipped the field. We were able to pick up a couple first downs after that. Tyson had that great run. Now we were able to punt with less time on the clock and put a lot of pressure on them.”

West Central Area-Ashby's Tyler Stone lunges to make a sack on Osakis sophomore quarterback Kyle Mages on Oct. 15, 2021. 
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press
West Central Area-Ashby's Tyler Stone lunges to make a sack on Osakis sophomore quarterback Kyle Mages on Oct. 15, 2021. Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

The Knights got one last possession with almost three minutes left. It was 4th-and-2 from the Osakis 45-yard line when Paulson’s attempted pass to keep the drive alive fell incomplete as the Silverstreaks held on for their biggest win of the season to this point.

“I have so much respect for those guys,” Infanger said of Wood and the WCA-Ashby program. “They’re doing things the right way over there, and it’s cool for us and them to be playing in such a big game late in the season like this. Odds are we’re probably going to play them again, or have a great chance to, in a section championship here in a couple weeks. This battle is probably not over, and we don’t in any way think it is.”

Tyson Hagedon
Tyson Hagedon

Hagedon led the Osakis run game with almost 160 yards and the touchdown on 23 carries. Imdieke added 89 yards on 17 rushes.

“Tyson had a big night,” Infanger said. “He’s a junior and he really turned a corner. He found ways to break tackles and spin off of tackles and gain some yards that he hadn’t been gaining after contact earlier in the season. To see him do that and really mature as a back for us was really encouraging in a big game like that.”

Paulson had more than 200 yards passing for the Knights, including converting some big third downs and a 4th-and-16 on WCA-Ashby’s first scoring drive.

That pass went to junior Cole Anderson on a 20-yard gain before Anderson caught a 6-yard touchdown pass later in the drive. Paulson connected with Anderson on another second-quarter touchdown pass of 9 yards, but both of the 2-point conversions came up short to leave it 14-12 Osakis.

West Central Area-Ashby receiver Cole Anderson fights for extra yards against the defense of Osakis' Carter Watnaas on Oct. 15, 2021. Anderson had two touchdown catches in the game for the Knights. 
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press
West Central Area-Ashby receiver Cole Anderson fights for extra yards against the defense of Osakis' Carter Watnaas on Oct. 15, 2021. Anderson had two touchdown catches in the game for the Knights. Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

“It was lots of one plays in this game that made the difference,” Wood said. “Just a lot of things where if the ball bounces another way it’s a different game. We missed a couple of 2-point conversions. We gave up that score right before the half where they made a great play. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”

That play before halftime ended up being the game-winner. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Mages found Bauer Klimek for a 23-yard touchdown pass as time expired. Mages then ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 22-12 at the half.

“That hurt a lot,” Wood said. “I wouldn’t say it was the game, but it definitely did not help us out.”

Both coaches have a lot of admiration for each other’s programs, and they left a hard-fought game Friday night feeling the same way.

“I was just so impressed by the sportsmanship from both teams,” Wood said. “I have so much respect for Bill and what he does with their program there. I feel like the mutual respect between teams in our area is really good. We have good kids around here.”

Wood’s message to his team after the loss was to grow from it.

“We can get better,” he said. “We faced some adversity and were down a couple starters. That makes a difference, and to beat a good team twice is really hard. Our message really was keep working, stay positive, focus on the little things and enjoy the moment. It was a great football game. We came out on the short end, but that’s OK.”

The Silverstreaks and Knights will almost assuredly get the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the Section 6AA playoffs. That would mean if they meet again it would come in a section championship on Nov. 5 at the Fargodome.

West Central Area-Ashby will host Underwood (3-4) in their regular-season finale on Oct. 20, while Osakis goes to Pillager (0-7) looking to win the district championship outright.

“Records aside, we’ve had some great rivalries with Pillager the last few years, whether it was the section championship in 2019 or our last playoff game last year,” Infanger said. “Three years ago, they beat us in the Fargodome. That’s a rivalry, and we’re going to totally throw the records out the window and go to their place and take them as seriously as we take anybody. We have too much respect for their program.”

OSAKIS (6-1) 22, WEST CENTRAL AREA-ASHBY (6-1) 20

SCORING - FIRST QUARTER - Osakis - Tyson Hagedon 1-yard run; Drew Imdieke 2-point conversion run (8-0); Osakis - Bauer Klimek 2-yard run; 2-point conversion no good (14-0 Osakis)

SECOND QUARTER - WCA-Ashby - Evan Paulson 6-yard pass to Cole Anderson; 2-point conversion no good (14-6 Osakis); WCA-Ashby - Evan Paulson 9-yard pass to Cole Anderson; Conversion no good (14-12 Osakis); Osakis - Kyle Mages 23-yard pass to Bauer Klimek; Kyle Mages 2-point conversion run (22-12 Osakis)

THIRD QUARTER - No scoring

FOURTH QUARTER -- WCA-Ashby - Evan Paulson 70-yard pass to Carson Spangler; Cole Anderson 2-point conversion (22-20 Osakis)