Mound Westonka football walked off the field for the third straight season after a demoralizing playoff loss. Untimely turnovers, not reminiscent of the White Hawks throughout the season, gave Delano momentum and eventually a 31-13 Section 6AAAA victory at Haddorff Field on a cold Saturday afternoon.
Westonka was forced to punt on the opening possession and Delano took to the ground to drive down to the White Hawks 20-yard line. Delano QB Bryce Peterson tried to find receiver Jake Schultz on a pass down the left sideline despite great coverage enabling Westonka’s Joe Sluka to slide in underneath the pass and intercept it at the Westonka 2-yard line. The White Hawks offense took advantage going 80 yards in 10 plays, with Ray Beiningen scampering in the last 8 yards for the TD, taking a 7-0 first quarter lead.
Delano, who displayed more of a running game than the first time they faced off earlier this season, came right back down the field in 13 plays behind Cael Olson’s running and timely passing from Peterson. Olson pushed into the end zone from a yard out tying the game at 7-7 with 9:25 to play in the 2nd quarter. “Credit to Delano as they completely revamped their game plan that we saw earlier in the season. We figured they were going to try and run the ball more this time around, but they gave us some different looks formationally than they showed all season,” stated Head Coach Nick David. The Westonka offense went three-and-out on their next series and then a 16-yard punt gave the Tigers great field position at their 44-yard line. Delano then ran off 12 plays over six minutes but had to settle for a 35-yard field goal from Will Strandemo to take a 10-7 lead with just 1:22 left in the first half.
However, the White Hawks got a big 31-yard kickoff return by JT Kimbrough that brought the ball out to the Westonka 40-yard line. A short completion from Cole Drill to Max Kraay (6 catches-93 yards) stopped the clock, and then Drill found Kraay down the right sideline, as he out-jumped the Tigers defender, hauling in the pass at the Delano 20-yard line. On the very next play, Drill tried to find Kraay on a slant to the left but he was hit by a Tigers defender just as he threw the ball. Delano defensive back Teague Collings was able to step in front of the pass and outrace the White Hawks to the end zone for an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown. Strandemo made the extra point for a 17-7 advantage at halftime. “On that drive we really felt like we were going to punch it in and take the lead going into halftime, so to have a 14 point swing against us was really tough to swallow from a momentum standpoint,” said David.
The second half kickoff saw Westonka almost come up with a fumble but the play was ruled dead. The Tigers would get into plus territory at the Westonka 46-yard line, but the defense held and forced a punt. But Delano lined up Schultz in the punting position, where he took the snap, rolled right, and found a wide-open Collins down the right side of the field. Jack Nelson came up from the punt returner spot to make a great hit that almost broke it up. Nonetheless, the Tigers were at the Westonka 29-yard line. On the next play, Olson took a handoff up the middle and ran into his own lineman fumbling the ball. White Hawks linebacker Cole Munsterteiger landed on the ball giving Westonka some momentum.
Two plays later, Drill (14-25-179 yards) kept the ball on a read-handoff with Beiningen, but was stripped from behind by the Tigers Graysen Rosenow. The ball bounded forward allowing Delano’s Caden Rock to recover the fumble near midfield. Once again, the White Hawks defense forced a 4th down. Delano went for it and tried running the option but Peterson was pressured off the right side by Sluka and cornerback Brandt Tebbs. Peterson stopped as Dylan Sloan (6 tackles) and Munsterteiger converged on him. He then flicked a pass toward the sideline to Olson but Tebbs (6 tackles, TFL) snuffed it out bringing him down with the help of safety Owen McCue. The 6-yard loss gave the ball back to Westonka at midfield. On the ensuing possession, Drill rolled left, saw daylight, and ran down to the 13-yard line, but the White Hawks were called for a personal foul bringing the ball back to the Tigers 38-yard line. After an incompletion, Dylan Holappa caught a screen pass to the left and darted 26 yards, but as he was being tackled he was hit by Delano’s Mason Henry causing a fumble. Henry, who tallied 19 tackles, also recovered the fumble. On 3rd-and-11 from the Westonka 23-yard line, Peterson was forced from the pocket by Beck Jenson and Morgan Nester, however, he rolled to his right and threw to Schultz who had slipped past the White Hawks defense down the right sideline. The touchdown pass covered 77 yards and Strandemo’s extra point extended the lead to 24-7. “Delano has a very good passing game and does a phenomenal job with the scramble drill. Might be the best I have ever coached against. We knew we were going to have to stick on their WR’s from snap to whistle, but Schultz just snuck away from our guys like he has done to so many other teams throughout the season,” said David, who has now compiled a 66-33 record in his 11 seasons at Mound Westonka.
Beiningen (35 carries, 255 yards) would literally run through and around the Tigers defense on Westonka’s next drive. He carried the ball six times, gaining 60 yards, including the last 16 yards, untouched, for his second score on the day cutting the deficit to 24-13 with 11:54 to play in the game. Kimbrough tried to run for the two-point conversion following a bad snap but he was caught from behind by Henry as he rolled to his right. A short kickoff gave Delano good field position at their own 42, nonetheless, Sluka, who had 4 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, a sack, and an interception, took over on defense almost single-handedly. He hit Peterson on 2nd down forcing an incompletion, and then he went unblocked making Peterson scramble to his left before Sluka smothered him from behind for a 6-yard loss. Tigers punter Cadden Connor then uncorked a 62-yard punt that hit at the 32-yard line and rolled to the Westonka 12-yard line.
The White Hawks offense kept putting in work, driving 71 yards in 16 plays, taking nearly six minutes of valuable time off the clock before Sam Gaylord’s 35-yard field goal attempt went wide left. A Peterson screen pass to Olson would net 33 yards for the Tigers while moving into White Hawks territory. On 3rd and 8, Olson shot through the line and scooted 43 yards for the TD with 3:22 to play. Westonka would get to the Delano 14-yard line, but Drill’s last-ditch effort to get the ball to Beiningen fell incomplete, in line with the White Hawks season. “Coming into this season we really didn’t know what to expect being that we had graduated 15 starters from the 2022 season. Coupled with a newly formed district and a much tougher schedule we were not sure how we would match-up week in and week out. With that, we couldn’t be more proud of the way the boys battled all season long. To go 7-2 and fight through the adversity that we did throughout the season with a very young and inexperienced group is a testament to their hard work and coachability,” replied David.
Jaaron Konkel had a team-high 8 tackles, along with Munsterteiger, in his final game as a White Hawk. Seniors Morgan Nester and Jack Nelson each contributed 4 tackles, while fellow senior Drake Woodruff finished with 3. Offensively, Dylan Holappa added 4 catches for 53 yards.
For a season recap, the White Hawks finished 7-2 and were Skyway Bronze Subdistrict Runner-Ups in the inaugural season of this newly formed district. Beiningen led the state in class 4A in rushing with 1,577 yards. (Delano’s Olson is currently second and has 1,301 yards). His 261 carries and 27 rushing TD’s were also the most in Class 4A, as were his 175 yards per game on the ground. Drill finished the season with 96 completions accounting for 1,192 yards through the air with 9 touchdowns. He also added 425 yards rushing with 4 TD’s. As a team, Westonka rushed for 2,095 yards, while holding their opponents to 1,200. Kraay finished with 45 receptions (8th in 4A) and 693 yards receiving (5th in 4A) and found the end zone on four occasions. Holappa had 17 catches for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns, whereas Kimbrough caught 12 balls for 107 yards and a score. Senior Carter Reinbold had 3 catches for 28 yards and a touchdown as well as forced a fumble on defense. He accomplished all of this in the first half, before injuring his leg while being tackled during the first game of the year against SMB. Coach David had this to say about Reinbold, “Carter is a special kind of player who would have played a huge role for us in all three phases of the game this season, He is the kind of talent that we felt would score at least a touchdown a game as well as create havoc on defense and special teams as well, Our heart aches for Carter in that he missed his whole senior season due to injury. With that, we are really proud of how he kept his head held high and led in a positive way.”
On defense, the White Hawks were led by Roman Larsen’s 54 tackles. He also added a team-high 5 TFL’s, along with 5 sacks, as well as a blocked punt. Carter Kleinsasser finished with 49 tackles (32 solo tackles led the team), 4 TFL’s, 4 sacks, a forced fumble, and a safety. Tebbs also tallied 49 tackles, 4 passes defended, and a TFL. Konkel added 43 tackles from his middle linebacker position, while Sloan finished with 41 and a team-high 6 sacks. Senior defensive lineman Morgan Nester (27 tackles) had 4 tackles-for-loss and 2 sacks. Senior safeties Jack Nelson and Owen McCue (3 PD’s) tallied 33 and 32 tackles respectively. McCue also led Westonka in touchdown-saving tackles, a statistic that isn’t normally kept.
The offensive line will lose three mainstays in Mikey Oftedahl, Connor Esposito, and Drake Woodruff. All three contributed immensely in allowing the White Hawks to rush for nearly 2,100 yards. Senior Sam Gaylord, in his first season as the White Hawks placekicker, finished with 34 points, hitting on 28-31 points-after-touchdowns and adding 2 field goals. Also playing in their last game at Haddorff Field were seniors Axel Anderson, Jack Butler, Logan Henslin, Jack Hulzebos, Isaac Paul, and Devon Raskie.