No need to worry about red zone efficiency for Estherville Lincoln Central and Spirit Lake. Of the 10 touchdowns recorded between the two teams, only three was scored on an offensive play less than 20 yards.
Spirit Lake, ranked third in Class 2A in the preseason poll, ended up on top, 40-25, in a game that wasn't decided until the fourth quarter.
The Indians gave ELC a big dose of Austin Folsom, who returned the opening kickoff 85 yards, scored on pass plays of 82 and 74 yards and returned a punt 65 yards for a score.
ELC’s Robert Sheridan (10) stole the ball from a Spirit Lake ball carrier and a moment later raced into the end zone for the Midgets’ first touchdown of the season on Friday.
Photo by David Swartz
ELC had its own big plays with the defense scoring first. Robert Sheridan stole the ball from a Spirit Lake ball carrier and strolled in the end zone from about 15 yards out.
Justin Heinrichs also connected on a 54-yard touchdown pass to Dan Christensen.
In the second half, Heinrichs scored on a 4-yard run and a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
No team wants to start a team giving up a kickoff return, but that was the start of the Midgets' season. Folsom saw a big hole up the middle and used his speed to out-run the defense to the end zone.
The two teams settled down for a while with Cory Meschede picking off a Heinrichs' pass on the Midgets' first drive. But ELC's team held the Indians to a three-and-out. The Midgets moved the ball on their second drive, but stalled at midfield.
Dalton Christoffer's punt went into the end zone. On the first play from scrimmage, Sheridan made his theft as Martin Rosas' kick tied the game at 7-7 with 4:54 in the first quarter.
"I thought our guys executed our defensive game plan very well in the first half," said ELC coach Andy Umthun. Unofficially, the Midgets held Spirit Lake to minus 26 yards in the first half.
The Indians would win the quarter though as quarterback Alec Henrickson threw a swing pass to Folsom. He made the first man miss and again won the foot race to the end zone from 82 yards.
ELC responded with a drive of its own and Heinrichs connected with Christensen on the 54-yard strike with 11:02 left in the second quarter.
The team battled back and fourth the rest of the half until ELC had to punt with 16 seconds left on the clock. Folsom again found some room as he scored from 65 yards out and Spirit Lake led 20-13 at the break.
ELC came out of the lockerroom and a 47-yard pass from Heinrichs to Carsten Bosch eventually set up Heinrichs' 4-yard touchdown run.
Spirit Lake's Caleb Jennings did his Folsom impression as he returned the kickoff 85 yards. The kick made the score 27-19 with 8:33 left in the third quarter.
Later in the period a 38-yard run by Heinrichs took the ball to the Indians' 17. A middle screen pass to Bosch took the ball to the 1-yard line where Heinrichs took it across the goal line on the next play. ELC's two-point conversion attempt failed as Spirit Lake held a 27-25 lead.
It took the Indians just one play from scrimmage to score as Henrickson connected with Folsom again as the speedy senior raced to the end zone for the fourth time. The Indians tried a two-point conversion that failed as ELC trailed 33-25.
Spirit Lake put the nail in the coffin late in the fourth quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run.
Unofficially, ELC finished with 273 yards of offense.
Heinrichs was 11-of-20 passing for 187 yards with four interceptions. He also ran the ball 18 times for 32 yards. Sheridan finished with 40 yards on 15 carries while Bosch had 13 yards on four carries.
The ELC defense held Spirit Lake to minus-26 yards rushing in the first half, but the Indians had 146 yards passing. In the second half, the Indians rushed for 53 yards and threw for 127.
ELC?(0-1) is home against Algona next Friday.
Spirit Lake (1-0) is at Forest City.