A myriad of mistakes spoiled Breckenridge’s homecoming football game Friday, Oct. 8, as the No. 7-ranked (QRF) West Central Area, Minnesota, Knights struck early and often in a 42-27 victory over the Cowboys. Breckenridge was able to salvage some success following a blowout first half, outscoring the Knights 19-6 in the final 24 minutes.
Breckenridge caught an early break when the Knights sent a special teams snap flying toward their own end zone. Alex Tschakert and Alex Martel corralled the punter near the 30-yard line. Hunter Norby came up with an interception for the Knights two plays later, setting up an Anthony Sykora rushing touchdown to start the scoring. Sykora reversed field and ran over his own man on his way to pay dirt. The ensuing two-point conversion pass was good for an 8-0 Knights lead at the end of the first quarter.
Breckenridge committed a special teams gaffe of its own, a mishandled snap that resulted in the Cowboys’ punter throwing a pick-six to the Knights, spotting the visitors with a 16-0 lead.
Cameron Nieto made an impact in his first game back from an ankle injury suffered three weeks earlier at Frazee, Minnesota. The tough-nosed quarterback put his shoulder down and rushed in for a 12-yard touchdown and the two-PT conversion, slicing the Breckenridge deficit to 16-8 with 10:35 remaining in the first half.
Midway through the second quarter, the Cowboys forced a fourth down incompletion while trailing 16-8 inside their own territory. West Central Area maintained possession, however, due to a sideline interference penalty on Breckenridge. Evan Paulson found Cole Anderson on a 20-yard touchdown pass two plays later to make it a two-score game at 22-8.
Paulson went on to throw two more first-half touchdowns, both to Norby, as WCA blew things open with a 36-8 halftime lead.
Breckenridge broke through in the third quarter with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Gavin Pederson. The multi-purpose player juggled a pass on a circus catch near the sidelines earlier in the game, before hauling in the scoring reception. Pederson scored another touchdown on a three-yard rush in the third quarter, bringing Breckenridge within 15 points on its final scoring play of the contest. Pederson has reached the end zone three times over the past two games.
The Breckenridge offense was able to draw WCA offsides four times in the game. Overall, it was a penalty-filled affair, including a long Nieto rushing touchdown that was negated by a blindside block and numerous Cowboy kickoffs that sailed out of bounds.
All things considered, the Breckenridge defense performed well. Offensive and special teams mistakes gifted the Knights excellent field position and forced Cowboy defenders to work extra hard for stops. Landon Blaufuss was noticeably effective, laying several hits on Paulson when he dropped back to pass. Bailey Evans also had a solid game with two tackles for loss.
Breckenridge was able to contain Sykora on the ground in the second half, although the elusive tailback did tally 12 carries for 129 yards in total. He scored twice on the ground.
Breckenridge was led by touchdowns from Nieto, Pederson and Dylan Bernotas. Nieto ran hard on 16 carries for 68 yards. Bernotas turned five carries into 21 yards and Pederson logged 44 total yards.
Breckenridge hosts Hawley, Minnesota, Friday, Oct. 15. The Cowboys have two regular season games remaining.