It is not very often when high school players know they are playing in their last game of the season. That too was different this year. Mound Westonka Football had just come off an impressive win versus Bloomington Kennedy last week and were excited to make it to the second round of the section playoffs. However, their toughest opponent they would face, COVID-19, would flex its muscle one more time and force the team and coaches to pivot yet again. In the span of 7 days, their opponent and place of the game changed three times and the date of the game changed twice as well. Fortunately, the team was able to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak, which sidelined many other teams by this point. They were excited to play but knew that when that game was done on Friday night their season would be over as well. Grateful to have gotten this far, the boys were excited and ready to play.
The opening kickoff was received by the White Hawks and they started with good field position at the 35. Their first 10 yards came easy as Jake Gaylord’s hard count drew the Red Knights offsides twice in the opening drive. The first series would feature seniors Logan Leonard grabbing passes out of the air, and Tucker Anderly battling on the ground. On fourth down, Bowe faked the punt and scrambled to a first down. This first drive really highlighted the three senior captains and their talent and leadership. Eventually they would find themselves in a 4th and long position again, but this time they skipped the first down and Jake Gaylord connected with Trent Bowe who headed straight to the endzone. Neve made the score 7-0 with a little over eight minutes left in the first quarter.
BSM also began with strong field position at the 40, their first drive ate a lot of time off the clock, but for every positive yard they earned, the tough Westonka defense, would force a loss. Tackles and sacks for losses. Still, BMS showed their talent and continued to inch their way down the field. When the endzone was finally within reach, Trent Bowe forced a fumble and EJ Van Dyken recovered it and ran it back to the 50. With 1:30 left, it was White Hawks ball at midfield, score still 7-0 and there it would remain going into the 2nd quarter.
The second quarter would be quiet for the first 10 minutes. Both defenses would hold the other’s offense scoreless. That was until about 2:00 left in the half when the White Hawks, playing to win, went for it on 4th down, but could not convert. This left only 20 yards to score for BSM, and this time they would not be stopped and would score within a minute. The White Hawks would receive the ball with a little over a minute to play, but a big interception would provide the momentum change that the Red Knights needed. They would score again and the White Hawks ended the first half down 14-7.
The White Hawks could not regain the momentum they had in the first quarter. In the next quarter the Red Knights would double their score and head into the 4th quarter leading 28-7. They would score quickly again to start the fourth and extend their lead to 35-7. The White Hawks, never ones to give up, did pull together one more scoring drive and with 4:40 remaining in the game, would find the endzone one last time on another Gaylord to Bowe connection making it a 35-14 final score. Even though they were ending their year with loss, they gave it 100% until the last play of the game.
Senior captain Tucker Anderly reflected on the season saying, “It’s been a highlight of my high school career to play on the football team and under such great coaches. I’m gonna miss playing under the Friday night lights and hearing the home crowd cheer loud.”
A Westonka parent in attendance said, “COVID-19 cancelled a lot this year. We were not sure we would even have a season so to play this long was something we are very grateful for. Most of all, it was obvious that COVID-19 could not cancel the work-ethic, sportsmanship, pride, honor, teamwork, resilience, and friendship that the boys showed all season long. As much as COVID-19 was like a tough opponent we faced each week, COVID-19 was in some ways like an additional coach. Our kids learned how to be resilient, how to persist, and how to support one another on and off the field. They would never learn these lessons without the talented, committed, and professional group of coaches that were there with them every step of the way. As a parent, I am so proud to be a part of this great program.”
Coach David summarized the season, “It was a very challenging season for many reasons, one I know we all will remember forever. I am grateful that our kids were able to play. I am grateful that in a world that is struggling and divided in so many ways, that our boys were able to have some sense of normalcy and positivity in their lives for a couple of hours each day. I am extremely proud of our players and coaches, as their flexibility and resolve was amazing throughout the season. At any moment they understood that plans could change, and we might have to pivot, and they just rolled with it all season long. We knew coming into this season that we were young, and that we would be playing several underclassmen at key positions which made it even tougher early on in the season as we didn’t have a normal summer or fall camp to prepare. With that, I am so proud of how much our team improved throughout the season.
I always tell my players that in football ‘the hard is what makes it great.’ What I mean by that is football is a grind. In a world of instant gratification there is none in football. Football takes a lot of hard work that is not always fun. You have to be selfless, you have to be willing to play through pain, and you have to care more about the guys next to you more than your own success in order to have a great football team. With that, all ‘the hard’ is so rewarding in that you not only get to play under the lights at the end of each week which is special in itself, but you learn and take things with you for the rest of your life that will help you become successful in the workforce, as husbands, and as fathers.
I feel for our seniors as I know they are sad to see that their high school careers have come to an end. They are such a great group of young men and we are going to miss them all tremendously. I have no doubt that all of them will be very successful individuals as they move on in life.”