10/25/2012 9:49:00 AM Sargeant kicks Chisago Lakes past Irondale
Senior Dan Sargeant watches as his game-winning field goal sails through the uprights against Irondale. Photos by Kirsten Thompson
By JEFF NORTON
A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn’t have written a better ending to a football game. Dan Sargeant kicked a 36 yard field goal – the first made field goal of his high school career – with 2.7 seconds remaining in regulation lifted the Wildcats to a 24-21 win over Irondale last Wednesday, October 17 at Chisago Lakes High School. The win, combined with a 17-0 Cambridge-Isanti loss to Rogers, gave the Wildcats the number one seed and a first round bye in the Section 7AAAAA playoffs. This Saturday, October 27 at 2 p.m., the Wildcats (6-2) will host St. fifth-seeded St. Francis (2-6) in the section semifinal game. St. Francis earned the right to play the Wildcats by beating fourth-seeded Duluth East 35-13 in the section quarterfinals this past Tuesday, October 23. So Sargeant’s game-winning kick is not enough drama for you? How about this: With 6:52 left in the game and the Wildcats on their own 18 yard line, Wildcat running back Josh Parks fumbled a handoff and Irondale recovered the ball at the 21. They scored two plays later to take a 21-14 lead with 6:31 remaining. Eric Brown fielded the ensuing kickoff at the two and returned the ball to the 34. On second and eight from the 36, Parks took a pitch right and turned it around the corner and up the right sideline. Ten yards downfield, an Irondale defender stood ready to make the tackle. Rather than cut inside, where a host of tacklers waited, or step out of bounds, Parks ran full speed straight through the Irondale defender. As the Knight player lay dazed on the field, Parks barely slowed as he ran all the way down the sideline and into the end zone to cut the Knight lead to 21-20. “On the fumble, I made a mistake,” said Parks.
“I was a little too wide when I took the handoff. But I got a chance to make up for it. I want to do whatever I can for the team to win. When I got the ball, I knew I had to score. I was focused on getting to the end zone. It didn’t matter who was in front of me.” It just keeps coming: The Wildcats made three big defensive plays on the ensuing Irondale drive. On first down from the Irondale 27, Knight running back Victor James got loose up the middle. Wildcat defensive back Miles Turk made a diving tackle that saved a very long gain. Later on the drive, Irondale faced second and 11 from the Wildcat 47. Quarterback Justus Canfield blew through a hole up the middle and headed for daylight. But Avery Peterson dove and got just enough of Canfield’s ankle to knock him off balance. Canfield stumbled forward and fell after a 15 yard gain. Peterson likely saved a touchdown. And, finally, on second and 17 from the Wildcat 29, Canfield dropped back to pass. He fired it down the middle of the field towards the end zone. Wildcat defensive back Kyle Graeve leaped in the air and intercepted it, cradling the ball as he fell back into the end zone. The referees placed the ball at the one with 1:35 left in the game. More fun and redemption: On second and seven from the four, Parks took a pitch 13 yards for a first down. On third and two from the 25, Parks took a pitch right turned the corner and ran out of bounds to stop the clock – but he had run out a foot short of the first down, forcing the Wildcats to punt with 42 seconds remaining. It looked like the best the Wildcats could hope for was overtime. Berg got off a punt that hit at the 50 and rolled into Irondale territory. It looked like the ball would roll dead just inside the Irondale 40. But the return man inexplicably tried to pick the ball up as it rolled and dropped it. Parks, in his second round of immediate redemption in the game, pounced on the loose ball and the Wildcats were back in business at the Knight 39 with 31 seconds left in regulation. On third and ten, yet another player made a big play. Berg threw a bullet to Kellen Reed on a slant pattern over the middle, and Reed made a nice catch and was tackled at the 25 yard line with 14 seconds left.
The Wildcats called their second time out. Kaleb Paehlke ran six yards up the middle to put the ball at the 19, and the Wildcats took their final timeout with 8.5 seconds remaining. Sargeant ran to put on his kicking shoe and trotted back onto the field. Irondale called a timeout to freeze Sargeant. After the timeout, Sargeant (a straight-ahead kicker) lined up for the field goal. After a perfect snap and hold, Sargeant boomed the ball towards the uprights. The ball hooked a little bit to the right, but then seemed to straighten itself out and went through just two feet inside the right upright for three points and the win. Hollywood would have been proud. Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss certainly was. “On the fumble, Mitch and Josh just didn’t get the right spacing. Unfortunately, the ball was on the ground and they converted in two plays to take the lead. But give our guys credit. This pattern has repeated itself several times this year. Our guys have been able to maintain their composure in tough situations all year and they did the same thing in this game. Josh’s big touchdown run after the fumble got us right back where we needed to be before that final series. We’ve got a veteran group and I think there is a strong trust between everybody. They have high expectations for each other. They each do their job and good things happen. And every week, someone else steps up.” The Knights got on board first. They opened the game with a 16 play drive. On fourth and goal on the three inch line, Canfield snuck the ball up the middle and barely crossed the plane of the goal line to put the Knights up 7-0 midway through the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Wildcats went on a ten play, 65 yard drive highlighted by a 16 yard run by Eric Brown and a 20 yard run by Parks.
On second and goal from the one foot line, Berg kept the ball himself and dove over the goal line to give the Wildcats the lead. Lindstrom’s extra point was good and the game was tied 7-7. In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats took their first lead of the game at the end of 13 play drive highlighted by the arm of Berg and the legs of Paehlke. And since it was a Hollywood-inspired game, the crowd got some bonus excitement on the extra point: the snap was high and to the right. Without missing a beat, holder Jake Sandgren reached high over his head, caught the ball and brought it down into position without disrupting the rhythm of the play. Kicker Hunter Lindstrom split the uprights and the Wildcats led 14-7 with 10:16 left in the game. Irondale responded with an eight play drive of their own, capped off by a 38 yard touchdown run around the right end by Victor James, and the game was tied 14-14 with 7:09 left. Little did the players know that the excitement was just about to begin? Berg finished the day eight of 12 for 83 yards passing and scored two rushing touchdowns. Parks led the Wildcats with ten carries for 108 yards. Sargeant had missed the only two previous field goal attempts in his high school career, one last year and one this year. He said “Tonight, I tried to put everything out of my head and focus on the ball. In warm-ups, I hit one from fifty yards. So I just knew I could kick it that far. The accuracy is not always there, but it was tonight.” Weiss added “There was a little bit of a crosswind, but Dan’s got a strong leg. It was a great snap and a great hold and the protection up front was very good. Dan hit that thing just right. It was a huge clutch kick, a huge play.” Weiss talked about one of the players who is sometimes overlooked. He said “Jake Sandgren is one of those unsung heroes who does the little things that nobody notices and does them every day.
He is a big part of our success this year, no doubt. He obviously has the ability to handle a snap if it’s not perfect, like what happened on the extra point tonight. He’s so calm and smooth when he does everything.” At the conference meeting a few nights ago, Weiss talked to Irondale head coach Ben Geisler. While Geisler was not thrilled about the outcome of the game, he agreed, said Weiss “that it was an exciting game, a good game with so many twists and turns. It could have gone either way. Thankfully, it turned out in our favor.” The Wildcats beat St. Francis 41-14 just four weeks ago. Weiss talked a little about Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against the Fighting Saints. He said “Having the bye is a nice advantage. It gives us a chance to catch our breath. This week, we are going to stress the importance of playing every game as if it was our last. St. Francis’ record does not indicate how good they are. They’ve played everybody tough and have shown the ability to move the ball. We really need to bring our “A” game this time of year. It’s been awhile since we’ve made it past the second round, so it’s a big game for us.”