Shattered Dreams: Euphoria to despondent in 1.4 seconds
November 14, 2019
For the Moorhead Spuds, the 60-minute state football quarterfinal game against the Elk River Elks on Nov. 9 lasted 1.4 seconds too long. In a game with a combined 113 points, it all came down to the final seconds.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Elks offense scored on the first play from scrimmage to set the tone for the game. After the two-point conversion, the Elks led 8-0.
Moorhead took the ensuing kickoff and marched down the field. After a 27-yard pass to Brady Wathall and a 15-yard touchdown run by quarterback Trey Feeney, the extra point made it 7-8.
Elk River’s offense continued to strike quickly and from long distances as Carter Otto and Joe Nordstrom rushed for touchdowns of 75 yards, 70 yards and two for 61 yards.
But the Moorhead Spuds were not out. Striking back through the air and the run, the Spuds kept the score within reach. Moorhead used short passes and a running game that added momentum as the game progressed. At half time, the Spuds were trailing 22-38 with Moorhead set to receive the second half kickoff.
The Spuds scored twice in the third quarter to close to 35-38, first on a 17-yard pass from Feeney to Jacqui Fitzpatrick and then on a one-yard Feeney rush. Meanwhile, the defense held the Elks to zero points.
As the fourth quarter got under way, the Elks added a touchdown with a 42-yard run from Otto, but the Spuds struck right back with a 62-yard catch and run by Lee Karfear close the score to 42-44.
Elk River’s Nordstrom ran 70 yards for the Elks and the two-point conversion made it 52-42. The next Moorhead possession culminated in a one-yard Feeney run for touchdown. Caden Triggs kicked the extra point, and Moorhead trailed by three.
Moorhead’s defense held again and forced the Elks to punt, but a fortunate bounce led to the ball being downed at the Moorhead 1/2-yard line. The Spuds took over with 99+ yards to go and only two minutes on the clock.
The Spuds went to work. An 11-yard gain was followed by a 14-yard run, and after an Elks foul on the play the Spuds stood on their own 40-yard line. After a couple of short passes with the receivers getting out of bounds and quick plays, Moorhead had moved the ball to the Elk River 33-yard line, but time was running out.
Quarterback Feeney fell back and launched a pass to one of his favorite targets, Blake Walthall. Walthall went up in the end zone and battled the Elks safety. When the play was complete Walthall stood in the end zone with the ball and Moorhead had completed one of the most fantastic comebacks ever. The Spuds led 55-52 with only 13.7 seconds left.
Moorhead kicked off and stopped the Elks to a short return. A short run by the Elks forced their last time out. They were still 57 yards from the goal line.
1.4 seconds. One last play for Elk River, only one stop needed by the Spuds and they would head to the state semifinals. 1.4 seconds.
Elk River’s quarterback Beau Ruby dropped back and despite pressure, let fly a pass with all he had. Elks star running back Otto sprinted down the middle of the field tracked by Spud defenders. Otto made the catch, broke two Moorhead tackles, and outran the rest of the Spud defenders to the goal line for the 58-55 win. For Moorhead, the players lay on the ground or crouched with their heads in their hands while the bench stared in disbelief, and the fans who only seconds ago were screaming at the top of their lungs, were suddenly silent. What only a moment ago had been joy and gladness had shattered into heartbreak. The season was finished.
- Bill Grover, Special to Moorhead Schools
Photo: Moorhead High’s Trey Feeney (3) scores a touchdown on a quarterback sneak during the first round of the state football tournament on Nov. 9. Offensive linemen Parker Buckner (63) and Tyler Martin (77) helped clear the way to the goal line. Credit: Renée Grover