DARLINGTON — Fennimore found a way to get back in the win column Friday night.
Despite four first-half turnovers, coach Boone Tollefson’s Golden Eagles made just enough plays to pull out a hard fought 18–14 road win at Darlington.
Junior quarterback Reid Larson shook off two first-half interceptions and finished with 196 yards passing and accounted for all three touchdowns as Fennimore ended a four-year losing streak to the reigning SWAL champion Redbirds 18–14.
Larson’s 11-yard touchdown pass to a diving Trevor Neuroth with 41 seconds left in the opening half proved to be the game-winner as the second half turned into a scoreless defensive stalemate.
Fennimore improved to 4–1 overall and 2–1 in the SWAL a week after suffering a 30–6 loss to league-leading Cuba City (3–2, 3–0). Meanwhile, three-time defending Division 6 state runner-up Darlington fell to 0–5, 0–3 with the loss.
“We definitely wanted to get back in the win column,” said Tollefson. “Coming in we felt like Darlington was improving each week despite their record. We helped them out early on with a number of unforced turnovers in the first half, but we kept fighting and got the win. I happy with the outcome, but we definitely have some things to work on this week, especially in the turnover department.”
Fennimore’s first miscue of the game came on the very first play, when Darlington senior Bailey McGuire recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and returned it to the Golden Eagles’ 16-yard line.
Four plays later, senior halfback Kameron Blosch bulled in from the 1 to put the Redbirds into the lead. McGuire tacked on the extra point to make it 7–0 less than two minutes into the game.
Fennimore answered right back with a five-play, 72-yard scoring drive of their own to cut the deficit to 7–6.
A 57-yard pass from Reid Larson to Maguire Fitzgerald set the Eagles up at the Darlington 11, and Larson capped the drive with a 1-yard keeper two plays later. The extra point was no good, leaving the host Redbirds with a one-point lead with 8:39 remaining in the first quarter.
Larson gave the Eagles a 12–7 lead early in the second quarter with a 48-yard scoring strike to senior Liam Kenney.
The Redbirds took advantage of another Fennimore turnover later in the quarter to regain the lead.
An interception return by junior Stryker Fitzsimons put the ‘Birds into scoring position at the Fennimore 4. Senior halfback Grady Rielly scored two plays later to put Darlington back on top 14–12 with 5:34 to play in the opening half.
Fennimore appeared to snatch the momentum right back by returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but a penalty brought the ball back to their own 43. Then, the Eagles fumbled the ball back to the Redbirds four plays later.
Darlington returned the favor with a fumble of its own near midfield with 1:34 remaining in the half.
The Eagles quickly went to work and scored less than minute later on Neuroth’s diving TD catch in the left corner of the end zone to grab the lead for good at 18–14.
After allowing over 200 yards of offense and 18 points in the first half, the Redbird defense stepped up and held the Eagles scoreless in the second half.
However, the Fennimore defense was equally stout, holding the Redbirds to just 79 yards in the second half while forcing four punts.
Darlington had the ball at midfield with less than six minutes to play, but a pair of penalties and a sack forced them to punt the ball away.
The ‘Birds got it back near midfield with 2:20 remaining, however the Eagles forced a fumble on another sack to seal the outcome.
The Golden Eagles will look to begin a new winning streak Friday night when Southwestern (2–3, 0–2) comes to town. The Wildcats are coming off demoralizing 55–6 loss to Cuba City.
“Number one, we have to hold on to the ball,” added Tollefson. “We can’t be fumbling the ball and we can’t be making bad reads in the passing game. Defensively, we are going to see a team that wants to throw the football so we have to be ready in the defensive backfield.”
(from Friday, Sept. 15 @ Fennimore)
Fennimore 6 12 0 0 — 18
Darlington 7 7 0 0 — 14
D: Kameron Blosch 1 run (Mcguire kick)
F: Reid Larson 1 run (kick failed)
F: Liam Kenney 48 pass from Reid Larson (run failed)
D: Grady Rielly 6 run (Mcguire kick)
F: Trevor Neuroth 11 pass from Larson (pass failed)
First downs — F 11, D 8. Rushing — F 35-128, D 32-115. Passing (comp-att-int, yds) — F 8-18-2, 196, D 5-12-0, 36. Fumbles–lost — F 2-2, D 3-2. Penalties-yards — F 2-25, D 4-20.
Rushing — F: Zach Davis 23-96. D: Blake Whalen 17-75. Passing — F: Reid Larson 8-18-2, 196. D: Blake Whalen 5-12-0, 36. Receiving — F: Maguire Fitzgerald 2-91, Liam Kenney 2-59, Trevor Neuroth 3-28. D: Blosch 2-23.