Paynesville Bulldogs win a thriller, 28-21
Top-seeded Paynesville scores a fourth-quarter TD to stave off the upset by Eden Valley-Watkins in the Section 5AA championship
COLLEGEVILLE — Max Meagher suggested he had chest pains through this one. The Paynesville head coach only may have been partially kidding.
Eden Valley-Watkins made this really hard on Meagher and the top-seeded Bulldogs, who had to rally twice to beat the Eagles 28-21 Friday night at Clemens Stadium.
“That was tough,” Meagher said. “My heart hurts.”
With the Section 5AA title in hand, Paynesville advances to the state Class 2A playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Bulldogs (9-1) play Moose Lake-Willow River (8-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 at North Branch High School.
Paynesville’s players are thankful. They know they could have come up short after trailing 21-20 in the fourth quarter and 15-14 at halftime.
“That was hard,” said senior wide receiver Levi Bast. “We knew they were missing a lot of guys from the last time we played them and that it was going to be a lot tougher this time.”
It was a far cry from Paynesville’s 46-8 home victory over EVW Oct. 4. The Eagles (6-4) did have senior halfback Mason Molitor, among others, back for the game at St. John’s University. And it definitely made a difference.
“We won,” senior quarterback Grady Fuchs said. “That’s all that matters.
“They did (play the Bulldogs tough). Their D-line is insanely tough. We struggled.”
Fuchs, a strong-armed senior who also helped lead Paynesville to the state baseball tournament in St. Cloud last June, had a big game statistically.
He rushed 17 times for 81 yards and three touchdowns, and completed 13 of 25 passes for 187 yards and one TD. That went to Bast, who had six catches for 125 yards.
“It’s been a dream all my life to get to state,” said Bast, who claims he has been going to Paynesville athletic contests “for as long as I can remember: Basketball, baseball, football, all of them.
“It’s huge to do this.”
Especially huge was Fuchs’ three-yard QB keeper with 5:01 to play. It wrapped up a nine-play, 66-yard drive that best could be called a season-saver for the Bulldogs. Fuchs then found Daltin Christinsen in the end zone for the two-point conversion and the 28-21 lead.
EVW then did a three-and-out on its next possession. Paynesville then ran the clock out after getting the ball with 3:30 to play.
The upset was averted.
“The kids played great,” EVW head coach Aaron Tri said. “We couldn’t ask for more than that.
“They played their hearts out. One or two plays and the outcome is different.”
The game started in daylight and wound up under the lights. There was a nearly 40-minute delay in the first half when EVW junior Jared Geislinger suffered a neck injury. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and driven to St. Cloud Hospital. Tri said he anticipated that Geislinger would be OK, saying he was moving OK.
“It was a precaution,” Tri explained about the emergency room trip.
By the second half, it was snowing on the artificial turf at Clemens Stadium. But it didn’t affect play.
EVW grabbed a 21-20 lead with 47 seconds to go in the third quarter. Sophomore Armando Walker intercepted a screen pass and raced 34 yards untouched into the end zone. It was, Meagher said, what made his heart hurt. He said he made a bad call, putting his team in a bad situation.
Tri, meanwhile, agreed that being healthier than the first meeting between the two teams made a difference. He lamented about the turnover differential. EVW had four turnovers, including three fumbles lost. Paynesville had the one interception that turned into a pick-six.
Tri also was disappointed in his team being called for 12 penalties. Paynesville was flagged eight times. Mostly, Meagher was relieved.
“I’m just real proud of our kids,” Meagher said. “We had a lot of tough breaks, but we just kept coming back.
“I told them we had to play with a lot of love for each other all night. And in the fourth quarter, there was some tough love.”
It’ll work this night.
EVW (6-4) 8 7 6 0 — 21
Paynesville (9-1) 0 14 6 8 — 28
EVW – Connor Lincoln 18 pass from Luke Jansen (Josh Streit pass from Jansen)
P – Grady Fuchs 21 run (pass failed)
P – Levi Best 14 pass from Fuchs (pass failed)
EVW – Josh Streit 2 pass from Jansen (Xander Wiltner kick)
P – Fuchs 3 run (pass failed)
EVW – Armando Walker 34 interception return (pass failed)
P – Fuchs 3 run (Daltin Christinsen pass from Fuchs)
First downs: 7 … Penalties: 12-102 … Rushing (Individual and team): Mason Molitor 13-15, Walker 6-10, Gavin Mathies 2-6, Connor Kenning 1-3, Jansen 5-(-8). Total: 27-26 … Passing (Individual and team): Jansen 7-17-96-1 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Streit 3-29, Lincoln 3-28, Mathies 1-39 … Interceptions: Walker 1 … Fumble recoveries: 0 … Tackles (solo-assist): N/A … QB sacks: N/A
First downs: 17 … Penalties: 8-95 … Rushing (Individual and team): Fuchs 17-81, Drew Tangen 7-51, Christinsen 12-35, Best 8-24, Blake Hiltner 3-5. Total: 47-196 … Passing (Individual and team): Fuchs 13-25-17-1 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Best 6-125, Carter Wessel 2-27, Caden Spanier 1-7 … Interceptions: Christinsen … Fumble recoveries: 3 … Tackles (solo-assist): N/A … QB sacks: N/A