Bennett Cutsforth’s 29-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter gave Wahlert Catholic a 17-15 win over West Delaware in the season-opener for both teams at the Rock Bowl on the Loras College campus in Dubuque, Aug. 30.
Trailing 15-14 with 6:21 remaining in the contest, Wahlert executed a six-minute, 15-play drive that included converting on third-and-16 and fourth-and-11 to set up Cutsforth’s winning kick, putting the Golden Eagles in the winning column for the first time since Oct. 20, 2017, after going 0-9 last season.
“We had several opportunities and we did not capitalize on them,” said West Delaware coach Doug Winkowitsch.
Typical of many season-openers, both teams struggled to get much going offensively throughout the evening, with West Delaware ending with 236 yards of total offense — 134 rushing and 102 passing — and Wahlert 220 with 149 yards on the ground and 71 through the air.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Hawks got on the board first after taking possession at their own 6-yard line with 11:03 left in the first half. Wahlert was flagged for roughing the passer and pass interference on second down at the five, moving the ball to the 20. Jared Voss then connected with Kyle Kelley for nine yards and a first down at the 34.
Alias Underwood broke free for 25 yards on a counter on the following play, moving the ball to the Wahlert 40, and Cael Meyer got loose for 10 yards, putting the Hawks at the 29. After two negative rushing plays, Voss scrambled for 11 on third down setting up fourth and one at the 20. Meyer’s one-yard run was good for a new series at the 19, and facing another fourth and one from the 10, Meyer’s run gave the Hawks first and goal from the seven.
Another counter play to Underwood was good for the score at the 6:36 mark of the second quarter, capping a 16-play drive. Ben Petlon’s extra-point kick was good and the Hawks were momentarily in control at 7-0.
Wahlert tied it up late in the half after Tommy King intercepted Voss and returned the ball to the Hawks 40 with 3:43 remaining before intermission. Quarterback Charles Fair threw a perfect strike to Jake Brosius for 29 yards and a touchdown and it was all even heading to the break after Cutsforth’s extra-point kick.
After West Delaware was forced to punt on its first series of the third period, Wahlert’s Gabriel Anstoetter rocked the Rock Bowl crowd with a 76-yard touchdown jaunt on first down to put the Golden Eagles up 14-7 after Cutsforth’s kick.
The Hawks showed a little life on the next possession but stalled at midfield. Petlon’s punt pinned Wahlert at the 12, and the West Delaware defense forced a Wahlert three and out, but the Golden Eagle defense returned the favor, forcing a Voss quick kick that was downed at the 10.
Facing fourth-and-15 from the 5-yard line, Wahlert punter Ian Takes stepped out of the back of the end zone for a safety and it was 14-9 with 1:13 remaining in the third.
Taking over after the ensuing free kick, Voss found Kelley behind the Wahlert defense on second down for 60 yards to the 2-yard line. Two Voss runs later, the Hawks were in the end zone as the period ended to lead 15-14. Meyer’s run for a two-point attempt was no good.
The teams traded possessions early in the final period, with West Delaware advancing to the Wahlert 28 before turning it over on downs to give Wahlert one final opportunity.
Fair found King for 16 yards and a first down at the Hawk 49 with three minutes to go, and then scrambled for 15 yards on fourth and 11 at the 35 with a minute and a half remaining.
Three Wahlert rushing plays moved the ball to the West Delaware 12, and after both teams took timeouts, Cutsfort nailed the biggest kick of his career and set off a wild celebration on the Golden Eagle side.
After a tough loss, Winkowitsch remains optimistic about his team.
“We will continue to improve and focus on the positives,” he said. “The guys are very capable, but we must make huge strides this week.”
West Delaware statistical leaders were: passing — Voss 6-of-12 for 102 yards and two interceptions; rushing — Meyer 23-for-88, Underwood 5-for 30 and one TD, Wyatt Voelker 6-for-20; receiving — Kelley 5-for-95; tackles — Kieran Monaghan nine, Kale Rempe eight, Jadyn Peyton seven, Tyler Traver 4.5, Joe Burke 3.5, Kelley 2.5, Underwood and Logan Woellert two, Christian Nunley one, Carter Krogmann, Sam Loecke and Wyatt Voelker 0.5