Heading into their Sept. 10 matchup at Brown Field, West Delaware and Decorah had split their previous 10 meetings, dating back to the 2010-11 season, including the Vikings’ come-from-behind 31-27 decision last season.
Not this time.
The Hawks picked up a 42-21 win in a game that at times appeared to be on the brink of a West Delaware blowout, but a speedy Class 4A Decorah team made just enough plays to keep things interesting
“I’m just so proud of the resilience. We knew Decorah was going to give us its best game. They have a tremendous receiver (Joseph Bockman) and we knew they were going to be stingy,” said coach Doug Winkowitsch. “Our coaching staff worked extremely hard tonight. The kids were working and we were rotating people in. We dealt with a little adversity this week and these guys really stepped up and did the job.”
Some of that adversity was a result of the absence of senior Wyatt Voelker, but this Hawk team has plenty of playmakers.
“Our mentality has always been — and these guys know it — it’s the next play and it’s the next man in,” said Winkowitsch. “I’m really proud of these guys. I can’t say enough.”
It might have looked a little different, but the Hawks did what they do best, rushing the ball 62 times for 295 yards and six touchdowns.
Logan Peyton and Conner Funk were double trouble for the Vikings, as Peyton picked up 93 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, and Funk carried 18 times for 86 yards. Add Kyle Cole’s 26 carries for 85 yards and three TDs, and it was another productive night on the ground for the Hawks.
“I’m really proud of those two (Peyton and Funk) to step up. They found out last night they were going to share the role at the running back position, and I thought they did a tremendous job,” praised Winkowitsch. “I thought our offensive line was starting to figure it out. Luke Reth is really coming along.”
With Decorah expected to stack the defensive box to slow the West Delaware rushing attack, the Hawks opened the game spreading the field, and when Cole hit tight end Luke Kerhli for 12 yards on the first play from scrimmage, it was a sign of things to come.
The Hawks played at a quick tempo and got the game’s first score when Cole followed solid blocking to score from 11 yards at the 10:08 mark of the first quarter, capping an eight-play 67-yard drive.
When the Hawks were unsuccessful on a fake punt attempt midway through the period, Decorah took over on downs at its own 43. The Vikings promptly showed they meant business when quarterback Keenan Tyler hit Bockman up the sideline on the next play for a 57-yard TD strike to tie things after the extra-point kick.
“It’s a situation where when they have a dynamic receiver you have to keep your thumb on him,” said Winkowitsch. “That kid (Bockman) is tough. We knew that last year and he’s a special player.”
After West Delaware went three-and-out on its next possession, Isaac Fettkether’s interception of Tyler had the Hawk offense back on the field. A 10-play 66-yard drive stayed alive when Cole found Will Ward for 13 yards on fourth-and-six, putting the ball on the Decorah three. Cole’s second touchdown of the night on the next play made it 14-7 after Funk’s extra-point kick.
Decorah’s first possession of the second quarter resulted in a quick out, and the Hawks took over on their own 32. That’s when Logan Peyton got it going, picking up 11, eight and 17 yards on his first three carries to move the ball to the Decorah 32.
A Cole-to-Kehrli completion with a roughing the passer penalty tacked on pushed the ball to the 12, and three more Peyton rushes resulted in a score that made it 21-7 West Delaware with 7:48 to go in the half.
Decorah moved the ball to the West Delaware one-yard line in 10 plays on the ensuing drive, but on a fourth and goal situation, fumbled a direct snap to the up-back. When Jadyn Peyton recovered, the Hawks took over with the entire field in front of them.
But four plays later, the Hawks returned the favor, and Decorah recovered a fumble on the West Delaware 26. The Vikings scored a fourth-down touchdown with four seconds remaining, and the half ended 21-14.
Decorah received the third-quarter kickoff, but when Funk intercepted Tyler and returned the ball to the Viking 32, it was ground and pound for the Hawks. Peyton carried three times, Funk two and Cole the final two, scoring from seven yards to make it 28-14 with 8:44 on the clock in the third period.
Decorah bounced right back, and Tyler found Carson Wemark for a 17-yard touchdown, 28-21 with 5:55 remaining in the third.
The Vikings intercepted Cole on West Delaware’s next possession, taking over at the WD 35, but sputtered offensively and punted. After another exchange of punts, the Hawks took over on their own 42 as the fourth period began.
The Hawks moved all the way to the Decorah five, with a 23-yard Cole to Jaxson Woellert completion moving the ball to the Viking 25, but a Funk field goal attempt was wide right.
Again, the West Delaware defense came through, as Cody Monaghan’s sack of Tyler put the Vikings in a hole and forced a punt. A return by Will Halverson and a holding call on Decorah saw the Hawks take over at the Viking 12.
Two Peyton runs, the second from four yards put the ball in the end zone and it was suddenly 35-21 with 5:49 to go. Sophomore Haze Seibert’s one-yard run with 2:24 remaining ended the scoring.
Now it’s on to face another traditionally tough opponent at Waverly-Shell Rock.
“We had some big special teams stops and a fourth-down stop. Anytime you can get that turnover ratio on your side it’s huge. This is a big win from the standpoint that we knew we got a little better last week and we still found out tonight we have a lot of things to work on. Playing quality teams is going to help us do that,” said Winkowitsch. “I know I’m like a broken record, but we just have to keep focusing on ourselves and continue to improve. We’ll break this film down and go through every single play to try and help these guys get better. The better we get, the better you’ll see us execute.”
West Delaware statistics against Decorah: passing — Cole 8-of-12 for 90 yards; rushing — Logan Peyton 13-for-93 and two TDs, Funk 18-for-86, Cole 26-for-85 and three TDs, Will Ward 2-for-21, Seibert 3-for-10 and one TD; receiving — Ward 3-for-24, Jaxson Woellert 2-for-36, Luke Kehrli 2-for-19, Funk 1-for-11; interceptions — Fettkether and Funk one; fumble recovery — Jadyn Peyton one; kick returns — Will Halverson 3-for-43, Logan Peyton 1-for-2; punt returns — Halverson 2-for-24, Funk 2-for-19; punting — Cole 1-for-37, Funk 1-for-24; extra-point kicks — Funk six; tackles — Jack Smith 9.5, Raub Loecke seven, Logan Peyton six, Fettkether five, Cody Monaghan 3.5, Lukas Meyer three, Jadyn Peyton 2.5, Kaden Ryan and Payton Lewin two, Cole and Funk 1.5, Noah Felton one, Halverson, Xander Zack and Woellert 0.5.