Warriors lose 62-60 heartbreaker in season finale

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Evan Schroeder carried the load for the Central offense, rushing for 121 yards on 19 carries for two touchdowns. He also added a passing touchdown and returned five kicks for 217 yards, including two touchdowns. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

Elliot Kelly had two passing touchdowns and ran for 35 yards in the Warriors’ loss at Central City on Oct. 15.

A Warrior team effort tackled the Central City runner.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

The Central football season ended in a heartbreakingly close 62-60 loss to the Central City Wildcats on Oct. 15. The game, which was originally scheduled for earlier in the year, served as the season finale when Central opted out of the playoffs, a decision that was made without player involvement. It was a decision the players understood, but were still disappointed by. Heading into the game, the team seemed ready. 

“We feel good, we’re playing loose and excited. It’s the seniors’ last game, so emotions will be high, which is good because I know that they will bring the excitement,” head coach Joe Koehn said beforehand. 

The game plan, as it has been all season, was to establish the run.

“We will always start out running the ball. And if we need to pass, we will. We just need to believe that we can,” Koehn said. 

As kickoff arrived, the Wildcats wasted no time, jumping out to a 13-8 lead in the first quarter, but the Warriors rallied in the second quarter, putting up 20 points to take a 28-27 lead into halftime. 

It was the first and last time the Warriors would lead in the game, as Central City emerged from the locker rooms and, on the legs of freshman Aiden Klostermann, who rushed for 229 yards and four touchdowns, scored 27 points in the third quarter and never looked back. 

While the Warriors made it close, out-scoring the Wildcats 16-6 in the fourth quarter, they ran out of time, ending the season with a 1-6 record. 

“I am proud of our seniors who provided great leadership for our underclassmen for the future. They are the building blocks to help rebuild this program. We had a lot of kids step up in different positions that they probably didn’t think they would be playing at the beginning of the season,” Koehn said. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Evan Schroeder carried the load, rushing for 121 yards on 19 carries for two touchdowns. He even added a passing touchdown, to go along with Elliot Kelly’s two additional passing touchdowns. Combined, the dual quarterback threat completed seven of 14 passes for 175 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. 

The rush offense gained a total of 204 yards on 47 carries. Other rushers included Kelly (35 yards), Sean Wilwert (29 yards), James Eberhardt (11 yards) and Noah Diersen (8 yards). 

Asked about the team’s troubles running the ball, Koehn said, “We had some miscommunications on the OL.”

However, the passing game seemed to flourish, as Hazen Loan, who became the lead wide receiver the past few weeks, tallied five catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. In the last three weeks, Loan has gained over 100 yards receiving. Fellow wide receiver Evan Pensel added two catches for 37 yards and one touchdown. 

On the defensive side, tackling and assignments troubles plagued the Warriors’ ability to stop the run, as they gave up 365 yards and eight rushing touchdowns.

Wilwert was a force, recovering three fumbles and even returning one of them for a touchdown, while Loan added an interception to the stat line, in what turned out to be a turnover heavy game. Diersen led the defense in total tackles, accounting for 10 of the team’s 46. Other notable tacklers included CJ Polkinghorn with 6.5, Kelly with 6, Schroeder with 5.5 and Nathan Shirbroun with 5.   

Another development was the emergence of a kick return game, as Schroeder put on a show, returning five kicks for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

With the season over, Koehn said, “My expectations were for everyone who came out for football to leave a better person and athlete and to have had fun. I feel like we achieved that. Expectations for next season would be to improve off this season.” 

Central Activities Director Aaron Reinhart added, “The term ‘success’ is very relative…My goal this year was to increase participation and create a positive atmosphere around our football program. We’ve increased participation by about 25 percent and we established a positive atmosphere early in the season. From that perspective, yes we were successful, but not satisfied. There is a lot of work to do moving forward.”

Will next season include any changes? 

“I don’t plan on changing a thing with my coaching staff. I will put myself under review and see what areas I can improve on and go from there. I know that I have a lot to learn and will plan on hitting those points hard to get ready for next year. I felt very confident with my coaching staff,” Koehn said. 

He went on to praise Coach Ledbeter as “a great asset to the team,” and talked highly of Coach Hopp and Coach Rodenberg, who “helped more with the junior high but are just as important. They are teaching and guiding our kids in the middle school level to get them ready and prepared for the high school level.”

“It was a tough year,” Koehn said, “but we learned a lot about ourselves and what we can do to improve for the future. I am very excited for the future with this group. We have a lot of young kids that are excited and want to see success. Our seniors provided a lot of guidance for these younger kids and I know that they want nothing but the best for this team and will be there to support it in the future.”

Reinhart added, “A football team, more so than any other sport, is reflective of the community as a whole. I know our community supports football and wants to build…Bottom line, it’s a great time to be a Central Warrior!”

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