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Eagles rally past IG to retain Milk Can
Milk Can
Senior Evan Gratz (69) and the Fennimore football team celebrates with the Milk Can rivalry trophy after last Friday’s 30–12 season-opening win over Iowa–Grant. The Golden Eagles have now seven straight Milk Can games dating back to 2016. - photo by John Linden photo

FENNIMORE — Junior quarterback Ethan Sheckler rushed for a game-high 135 yards and three two-point conversions to carry Fennimore to a 30–12 comeback victory over visiting Iowa–Grant in the annual Milk Can rivalry game, Friday, Aug. 18.

Sheckler, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound wrecking ball behind center, was making his first start at quarterback in Fennimore’s pistol spread offense after playing fullback and tight end last year as a sophomore.

Speedy freshman Reece Kelley (5–8, 165) added 69 yards rushing on 13 carries in his high school debut, and senior Trentin Hill (6–0, 215) rushed for 67 yards and three TDs on 10 carries, as the Golden Eagles rallied from a 12–8 halftime deficit to scored an 18-point win in the non-conference season-opener for both teams.

Hill scored on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter and Sheckler plowed in behind a host of Fennimore blockers for the two-point conversion to make it 8–0.

The Golden Eagles (1–0) drove deep into IG territory on their next drive and appeared to have a 1stand- goal at the 10 after a 17-yard Sheckler to Macoy Miles pass, but the play was negated by an illegal formation penalty.

The IG defense stopped Sheckler on 4th-and-3 and the 29, then senior Cyle Steffl caught the Fennimore defense napping when he connected with classmate Kalan Koch for a 71-yard TD strike on the very next play to make it 8–6 with just over two minutes remaining in the half.

Iowa–Grant reached into its bag of tricks and again surprised the Eagles with an onside kick, which was recovered by junior Aidan Friesen at the Fennimore 45.

The Panthers capitalized on their newfound momentum and seven plays later took a 12–8 lead when Steffl rolled to his left (he is left-handed) and hit senior Ashton Schmitz for a 10-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone with 15 seconds left in the first half.

Steffl finished the game 12 of 21 passing for 144 yard and 2 TDs, and also rushed for a team-high 67 yards on 13 carries.

IG’s lead didn’t last long, as the Eagles recovered a short kickoff at their own 45 to open the second half and drove the length of the field, converting a 4th-and-5 on a 6-yard Sheckler to Drew Crubel pass.

Hill covered the final three yards and Sheckler again went off the right side for an easy two-point conversion to make it 16–12.

Fennimore again converted twice on fourth down — first on a Sheckler scramble, then on a QB power run — on its next drive en route to a 3-yard TD run by senior Matthew Winch.

The Eagles drove 70 yards in 14 plays and took 6:15 of the clock. Sheckler’s third conversion run of the night made it 24–12 with just under eight minutes left in the game.

Hill scored on a 22-yard run two minutes later after the Fennimore defense stopped the Panthers on 4th-and-8 deep in their own territory.

Gavin Hinderman recorded a game-high 12 tackles, while Boden Brokopp finished with 11 tackles to lead the IG defense. Schmitz finished with 10 tackles and had six catches for 67 yards for the Panthers.

“We played a tough first half and went in with the lead,” said IG head coach Zach Raimer. “In the second half, we had some opportunities but had some issues with tackling and staying physical. I liked things throughout the game, but we have a lot of things to work on.”

Fennimore, which opened last year with an identical 30–12 victory at IGHS, has now won seven straight Milk Can games dating back to a 13–6 win in 2016. The rivalry was briefly interrupted three years ago when the Panthers played the COVID-shortened 2020 season in the combined one-year-only Ridge and Valley/ Six Rivers Conference.

Iowa–Grant played in the Six Rivers Conference in 2021, and the Ridge and Valley last year and will again this fall.

The Milk Can Game tradition, which began in 1970 with a 28–0 Fennimore win, resumed two seasons ago as a non-conference game when the Eagles open the 2021 season with a 47–0 win.

The Panthers, who won seven straight Milk Can Games from 2009 to 2015, still hold a 33–20 edge in the all-time series.

Iowa–Grant (0–1) will host New Lisbon (1–0) Friday at 7 p.m. in the 2023 home opener. The Rockets opened the season with a 26–14 win over Hillsboro last Friday.

“They will be another tough opponent,” added Raimer. “We need to just focus on us and perfect what we do.”

Fennimore (1–0) will travel to Richland Center (0–1) Friday night for a second-straight non-conference game. The Hornets are coming off a 52– 17 loss to Westby.

Fennimore 30, Iowa–Grant 12
(from Friday, Aug. 19 @ Fennimore)
Iowa–Grant....0 12 0   0 — 12
Hillsboro.........0   8 8 14 — 30
Second quarter
F: Trentin Hill 1 run (Ethan Sheckler run), 11:21
IG: Kalan Koch 71 pass from Cyle Steffl (pass failed), 2:06
IG: Ashton Schmitz 10 pass from Steffl (pass failed), 0:15
Third quarter
F: Hill 3 run (Sheckler run), 6:26
Fourth quarter
F: Mattew Winch 3 run (Sheckler run), 7:42
F: Hill 22 run (kick failed), 5:43
Team statistics
First downs — IG 15, F 27. Rushing – IG 19-77, F: 53-279. Passing (comp-att-int, yards) — IG 12-21-0, 144; F: 5-7-0, 51. Fumbles-lost – IG 0-0, F 0-0. Penalties-yards — IG: 2-9, F 7-32. 
Individual Leaders
Rushing — IG: Cyle Steffl 13-67; F: Ethan Sheckler 27-135, Reece Kelley 13-69, Trentin Hill 10-67. Passing — IG: Cyle Steffl 12-21-0, 144; F: Ethan Sheckler 5-7-0, 51. Receiving — IG: Ashton Schmitz 6-62, Kalan Koch 1-71; F: Macoy Miles 2-28, Kelley 2-16. Tackles — IG: Gavin Hinderman 23, Boden Brokopp 11, Ashton Schmitz 10, Dawson Reid 9; F: Matthew Winch 12.