The Mound Westonka varsity football team opened the season this past Thursday night with a convincing 24-7 non-subdistrict win over SMB at Haddorff Field, their tenth consecutive opening week victory.
The White Hawks (1-0) started strong behind the running of junior Ray Beiningen and QB Cole Drill, whose 33-yard scamper took them inside the red zone. Drill then found Carter Reinbold from 11-yards out and Reinbold’s ensuing two-point conversion staked Westonka to an early 8-0 lead just 3 1/2 minutes into the contest.
With nine new starters on the defensive side of the ball, the Westonka coaches didn’t quite know what they had. “Being so young on the defensive side of the ball, we knew we were untested but felt that we had a ton of potential due to the hard work in the weight room over the off-season. We are the biggest, strongest, and fastest we’ve ever been,” Head Coach Nick David said. However, the defense was ready for the test, stopping the Wolfpack on fourth down on their first possession and then inducing a punt after stuffing the SMB running game for negative yardage. With 24 seconds left in the first quarter, Reinbold forced a fumble that junior JT Kimbrough recovered at the SMB 34-yard line. A few plays later, Drill found tight end Dylan Holappa on a screen pass to the right that Holappa took down the sideline for an 18-yard score. Senior Sam Gaylord’s extra point made it 15-0 with 10:01 to play in the second quarter.
SMB (0-1) finally found paydirt just three minutes later when QB Merrick Woods found Grayson Okoronkwo down the right sideline. The 6’2 receiver went up and caught the ball just inside the goal-line despite tight coverage from Kimbrough. The extra point made it 15-7. On the subsequent kickoff, SMB pooched a kick down the left sideline that the Wolfpack was able to recover at the Westonka 37-yard line. A first down gave SMB a first down at the 20-yard line, but the White Hawks forced an incomplete pass on 4th and 13 when senior Mikey Oftedahl forced Woods out of the pocket with 5:59 to play in the half.
Mound Westonka ended up punting on the next possession but were able to pin the Wolfpack deep in their own territory when Drill’s punt from the Westonka 44-yard line rolled to a stop at the SMB 2-yard line. Woods mushed out from the goal-line on 1st down and then missed a wide-open receiver down the left sideline on 2nd down before a miss-handled shotgun snap caused Woods to scramble to his left but junior outside linebacker Carter Kleinsasser shot through to upend Woods for a 2-point safety and a 17-7 lead at the break.
“Offensively, we only have four starters back, and yet it was so fun to see how the new players stepped in and did their job at a high level. We were able to move the ball consistently all night led by the offensive line - Seniors Connor Esposito, Mikey Oftedahl, Drake Woodruff, Junior John Seemann, and Sophomore Dawson Leinfelder,” David said after the game. The only score of the second half came with 2:53 left in the 3rd quarter as Beiningen (22 carries, 117 yards) took the ball around the left side for an 8-yard TD run, capping off a career night for the Westonka running back. Drill finished 17-26 for 136 yards and 2 TD’s. Max Kraay (team-high 40 yards receiving) and Joe Sluka led Westonka with four catches each.
The White Hawks defense held the Wolfpack running attack to just 34 yards and a 1.6 yards per carry average. Woods, who was nearly hit on every passing play, was 14-32 for 101 yards and the lone TD. Junior middle linebacker Roman Larsen was all over the field finishing with nine tackles, two tackles-for-loss, and two sacks. Linebacker Isaac Paul and Kleinsasser had six tackles apiece. Cornerbacks JT Kimbrough (2 TFL) and Brandt Tebbs tacked on five tackles each. Senior Beck Jenson seemed to be in the Wolfpack backfield all night long as he corralled four tackles and added a sack.
It will be a battle of the ‘Hawks when Mound Westonka returns to the gridiron this Friday night at 7pm as they travel down to Winona to face the Winhawks at Paul Giel Field.