High school seniors often get reminded to enjoy moments of their youth. That message has probably never resonated as much as it has for the class of 2020.
Waseca football seniors got to savor a memorable moment Friday following a 23-8 victory over Plainview-Elgin-Millville at Waseca Junior Senior High for the Section 1AAA championship even if it means no state tournament.
“I think this whole experience just humbles everybody and they realize that it’s bigger than just them,” Bluejays senior offensive and defensive lineman Marcus Hansen said.
Hansen missed his junior track and field season in the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic where he had a shot to win a state title in the discus and shot put.
Other players like quarterback Ryan Dufault, wide receiver Kyreese Willingham and running back Tave Ball clinched another section title like they did in basketball last season but missed out on a state tournament.
“I just feel bad for everyone in our grade,” Dufault said. “Our grade came up knowing that we were going to be very successful. We worked hard, it stinks that it has to be our year but you can’t have everything be fair in life. It’ll teach us a lot of lessons like you can’t take anything for granted.”
On Friday, Waseca made the most of the situation, just like it has throughout the pandemic.
“We definitely wanted to come here and leave with the W because this is the last time we’ll be able to play on this field,” Willingham said.
Dufault helped ensure the fifth-ranked Bluejays (6-1) left with the W on the first play from scrimmage. Dufault ran 85 yards for a touchdown with 7 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Ball added an 11-yard touchdown run just before the end of the quarter that extended the Waseca lead to 15-0 following a two-point conversion run from Dufault.
Dufault added a 4-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds remaining in the first half to make it 23-0 following another two-point conversion run.
Though it had the makings of a track meet for the Bluejays, No. 10-ranked Plainview-Elgin-Millville (5-3) made sure it didn’t in the second half.
Waseca didn’t score in the second half and some of that came in part on self-inflicted mistakes. On the opening drive of the second half, the Bluejays drove to the Bulldogs 13-yard line. Waseca promptly moved back 15 yards on a taunting penalty again on the next snap following a holding penalty. It set up a second-and-42 from the PEM 45-yard line that ended in a Bluejays punt.
A high snap and a false start penalty stalled the next drive for Waseca. The Bluejays went three-and-out on their next possession and the Bulldogs finally completed a drive.
PEM’s Leo Silha ran in from 10 yards out with 10:16 left in the game and a two-point conversion pass made it 23-8. A 42-yard completion from quarterback Conner Schumacher to Connor McGuire set up the touchdown.
Waseca started the next possession with Dufault and Hansen on the bench. Dufault left the game after getting his throwing hand stepped on and Hansen exited with cramps. Still, the Bluejays moved the ball to the Bulldogs’ 23-yard line before another high snap pushed them back into a third-and-24.
“Offensively, we didn’t have our best night,” Waseca head coach Brad Wendland said. “We were slowed down by snaps and penalties. It was enough to beat a pretty good Plainview team.”
Dufault and Hansen returned for the final offensive possession and the last defensive stand. Senior Matt Seberson recorded two sacks during PEM’s final possession before the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs with .8 seconds left, leaving just one kneel down for the Bluejays to take to wrap up a third straight section title.
“I’m so glad for them that they got to play it,” Wendland said. “I’m proud of their effort. The season, on the surface, looks really smooth but every day there was adversity. The kids just came together really great.”
The game served as the last high school football game for 14 Waseca seniors who helped propel the program to a model of success.
“We always want the seniors to leave things better than they found it and these guys have set the bar really high for young Bluejays,” Wendland said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”