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MCDONALD'S GAME OF THE WEEK (WIAA Football D6 playoffs): Highland 19, Potosi 13
Highland wins on fumble recovery in the end zone on final play
Highland recovered a pair of Potosi/Cassville fumbles in the final two minutes to earn a 19–13 victory over the host Chieftains in a WIAA Division 6 Level 2 playoff football game last Thursday night. - photo by A.J. Gates

WIAA FOOTBALL DIVISION 6 LEVEL 2 PLAYOFF: Highland 19, Potosi/Cassville 13

POTOSI — What turned out to be one of the most bizarre football seasons in recent history, ended with two of the most bizarre minutes for the Potosi/Cassville football team Thursday night.

In a playoff game destined for overtime between two evenly matched teams, a single snap of the ball determined who would finish their season in celebration, and who would not.

Unfortunately for coach Mark Siegert’s co-op team, the season ended with a heartbreaking 19–13 loss to the visiting Cardinals of Highland.

Potosi/Cassville concluded the season with an overall record of 5–3, while Highland finished 8–0 with the second-round playoff win. 

“It kind of mimics the other two losses that we’ve had this season,” said Siegert. “We lost in the last 37 seconds at Highland in Week 4, then in Week 6 there were seven seconds left when we lost to Darlington, and then no time left in this loss against Highland. There were a total of 44 seconds to determine wins and losses, which turned out to be three losses. You do this long enough and I guess that kind of stuff will happen.”

The WIAA made the decision to end the playoffs after Level 2 for all schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the late start to the season.

The two teams played to a 7–7 tie in the first half with the Chieftains getting a 21-yard TD pass from Levi Groom to Robby Roe, capping off a 51-yard scoring drive for the home team. Roman Friederick added the extra point kick with 6:49 to play in the second quarter.

Highland answered late in the quarter with a 5-yard TD run by Cal Dorota and an extra point kick by Maximus Oleson with just 36 seconds to play in the opening half.

The two teams traded scores in the third quarter as well, Highland getting a 12-yard TD run from Owyn Halverson on their first offensive possession of the half, but missing the extra point kick.

With just 59 seconds showing on the third quarter clock, Potosi/Cassville answered with a 16-yard TD pass from Groom to Roe to cap off a 61-yard scoring drive, but like the Cardinals, missed the extra-point kick.

The two teams went into the fourth quarter knotted at 13–13, and both came up with huge defensive stops in the final two minutes.

With possession of the ball late in the fourth quarter, Potosi/Cassville looked poised to take a late lead, and on seven plays moved the ball inside Highland’s five-yard line.

Faced with 4th-and-1 from the four-yard line, the Chieftains fumbled the ball away, which was recovered by Highland with 1:50 to play in the contest.

With momentum now on their side, the Cardinals then marched the ball 94 yards on 15 plays down to the Potosi/Cassville 1-yard line, where they were faced with 4th-and-goal with just seconds remaining in regulation.

Coach Siegert’s defensive squad came up with a huge goal-line stand to preserve a 13–13 tie with only two seconds left.

Taking over at their own 1-yard line, the Chieftains were just one snap away from sending the game into overtime.

“We felt great,” said coach Siegert of his team’s defensive stop. “Momentum was clearly on our side. But we were so far down there that we couldn’t take a knee. There were other options there, but I thought we could just run a QB sneak.”

That’s when disaster struck.

On the very next snap, the ball got away from Groom and rolled into the end zone, where it was recovered by Highland defensive lineman Gabe Benish with no time on the clock.

“It was just an errant snap,” said Siegert. “It was one of those things that we probably didn’t do all year during practice or in a game, and it happened to be then.”

Following 48 minutes of hard-fought football between two evenly matched teams, it all came down to the final snap of the game, leaving one team in jubilation, and the other in heartbreak.

“I feel especially bad for the seniors, who can’t use this as motivation throughout the offseason or anything,” said Siegert. “It’s just there to sting for the rest of their life really.

Groom completed 6-of-11 passing attempts for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Both scores were caught by Robby Roe, who finished with four receptions for 87 yards. Sam Udelhofen hauled in the other two passes for 63 yards.

On the ground, the Chieftains managed 159 yards on 39 attempts (4.1 avg.). They were led by Tucker Leibfried and Preston Steiner who each gained 40 yards, Leibfried on 11 carries and Steiner on four. 

Defensively for the Chieftains, Owen Vosberg was in on a team-high 18 tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks, while Connor McKillip had eight tackles. Cody Klein and Logan Uppena were each in on seven tackles, while Brayden Edge had one sack.

Coming up with the team’s only interception was Sam Udelhofen, who also recovered a fumble, while Preston Steiner forced the fumble.

While coach Siegert’s squad concluded the season with an overall record of 5–3, he is grateful his team got as many games in as they did, considering the circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We got eight games in this year, which is more than a lot of teams,” said Siegert. “I can’t imagine them not being able to experience this year, because there were a lot of great things that these kids did and a lot of memories that were made. To not have that opportunity would have been tough for these guys. I’m really grateful that we were able to get our season in now, and keep it pretty normal.”

WIAA Division 6 Level 2 Playoff
Highland 19, Potosi/Cassville 13
(from Thursday, Nov. 19 @ Potosi)
Highland 0 7 6 6 —  19
Potosi/Cassville 0 7 6 0 —  13
Second quarter
P/C: Robby Roe 21 pass from Levi Groom (Roman Friederick kick), 6:49
H: Cal Dorota 5 run (Max Oleson kick), 0:36
Third quarter
H: Owyn Halverson 12 run (kick failed), 8:33
P/C: Roe 16 pass from Groom (kick failed), 0:59
Fourth quarter
H: Gabe Benish fumble recovery in the end zone, 0:00
Team statistics
First downs — H 14, P/C 15. Rushing – H 37-115, P/C 39-159. Passing (comp-att-int, yards) — H 11-23-1, 169; P/C 6-11-1, 150. Fumbles–lost H 1-1, P/C 2–2. Penalties-yards H 6-35, P/C 5-50. 
Individual Leaders
Rushing — H: Owyn Halverson 22-125, Cal Dorota 4-9, Max Oleson 1-4, Justin Miller 8-(-21); P/C: Preston Steiner 4-40, Tucker Leibfried 11-40, Connor McKillip 7-29, Roman Friederick 8-29, Levi Groom 7-20, Sam Udelhofen 2-1. Passing — H: Justin Miller 11-23-1, 169; P/C: Levi Groom 6-11-1, 150. Receiving — H: Max Oleson 4-90, Cal Dorota 4-38, Isaac Michek 1-31; P/C: Robby Roe 5-87, Sam Udelhofen 2-63. Tackles — P/C: Owen Vogelsberg 18, Connor McKillp 8, Cody Klein 7, Logan Udelhofen 7.