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STATE FOOTBALL: Inspired Esko loses ground game battle


November 15, 2019

Dan Saletel

xEsko quarterback Dylan Vinje hands the ball to Brock House during Saturday's semifinal matchup against the Annandale Cardinals in Brainerd.

BRAINERD-The Eskomos saw their season come to an end Saturday afternoon at the hands of the Annandale Cardinals. It was a snowy battle that ended 33-13 after the Cardinals outgained Esko on the ground by a margin of 357 yards to Esko's 74 yards.

After a fumble and a punt on Annandale's first two drives of the game, the Cardinals took over on the ground. The Cardinals offensive line opened huge holes - allowing Annandale to pick up giant chunks of yards as they finished the game averaging over 6 yards per carry.

"We couldn't contain them on the line," said Esko head coach Scott Arntson. "They did a nice job tying up our defensive line, which forced our linebackers and backs to make the tackles. When that happens, you know they are winning the battle in the trenches."

After a scoreless first quarter, Annandale's Lucas Baschel scored the game's first touchdown on a 7-yard touchdown run. With the extra point, it was a 7-0 Cardinal lead.

With 5:59 remaining in the second quarter, Cardinals quarterback Carson Gagnon scored on a quarterback keeper and ran it in from 19 yards out.

Esko scored late in the first half when Dylan Vinje hit Trevor Spindler on a 28-yard touchdown pass, which cut the Cardinal lead to 13-7 at the break.

Esko was hoping to use the momentum from the late touchdown as they received the second-half kickoff, but a three-and-out forced Esko to punt. It was the Cardinals who capitalized when Gagnon picked up the punt and raced down the sideline for a touchdown on a punt return from 55 yards out.

Rogan Kuser added the next two scores for Annandale, both coming on runs of 11 and 13 yards which gave Annandale a 33-7 lead late in the fourth quarter.

Esko added a late touchdown as Vinje scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to cut the final margin to 33-13, but it was too late for a Esko comeback. The Cardinals advance to the state semifinals Saturday at the U.S. Bank Stadium where they face Dassel-Cokato at 2 p.m.

Dan Saletel

As the emotional season came to an end Saturday for Esko, the Cardinals and the Eskomos players, coaches and others gathered at midfield for a moment of silence to remember Eskomos backup quarterback Jackson Pfister, who passed away late in the regular season.

"It was an emotional ride for them and this was a way for all to come together and offer support," Cardinals head coach Matt Walter said afterward.

Kuser led all rushers for Annandale as he finished with 193 yards on 27 carries in the win.

Esko's Eli Blue finished with five receptions for 60 yards while Vinje was 9-16 passing for 159 yards and one touchdown.

The Eskomos ended their season with an 8-3 overall record.


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