May 29, 2024

Knights come up inches short, take runner-up trophy

Carson Spangler and Mattson Hoff took the loss hard.

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“There’s nothing to hang your head over in a game like that,” Knight head coach Nate Wood told his players after the West Central Area/Ashby football team lost 14-13 in the Class 2A championship to Chatfield on Friday, Nov. 26, at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. “You leave everything out there and let the chips fall where they may. Football is a game of inches, and we came up literally an inch short in this game.”

There was no exaggeration from Wood as the game came down to a two-point conversion in the final minutes.

Senior quarterback Evan Paulson scored on a one-yard run to cap off a 76-yard drive after forcing a turnover on downs by Chatfield in Knights territory. Trailing 13-14 after the touchdown, Wood left one of the biggest decisions of the season – to go for the win or to go for the tie – up to his players.

“I wanted these guys to tell me what they wanted to do,” Wood said of calling a timeout after the touchdown. “I trust them. Playing for overtime was an option, but we all felt, ‘Let’s go for the win.’”

The Knights gave the ball to their best ball carrier all season in junior Anthony Sykora. He followed his blocks to the right before cutting up toward the goal line where he was met by Chatfield defenders. Sykora reached the ball toward the goal line as he went down.

Officials initially hesitated with a call but eventually did rule on the field that Sykora’s two-point conversion was good, which gave the Knights a 15-14 lead. However, the lead was brief as it was overturned about 30 seconds later after the referees looked at the instant reply, which is available during all MSHSL championship games.

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