POPLAR GROVE – It wasn’t a win, but it was a whole lot better start to the season for the Mendota Trojans than last year.
In 2018, North Boone handled the Trojans by a 63-0 margin. In the 2019 season-opener on Aug. 30, Mendota stayed within striking distance throughout the contest before finally falling to the Vikings, 19-7, in a Big Northern Conference contest at Poplar Grove.
Last season, under the leadership of superstar quarterback Britton Morris, North Boone had three touchdowns not long after stepping off the bus. It looked like things might be heading in the same direction this year.
The Vikings accepted the kickoff to start the game and they needed just under a minute and a half to move the ball 69 yards for touchdown. Morris’s replacement, junior quarterback Logan Emanuel, capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown plunge. Jeff Beard booted the extra-point kick for a speedy 7-0 North Boone lead.
After several changes of possession, the Trojans put themselves in business with their first scoring opportunity of the game late in the opening stanza. Mendota defensive back Ted Landgraf stepped in front of an Emanuel pass for an interception at the Vikings’ 23 and he returned it 3 yards to the 20. The Trojans drove down to the North Boone 3-yard line where Landgraf completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Emilio Perez. But Mendota was flagged for having an illegal man down field to nullify the TD, and the Trojans eventually turned the ball over on downs at the 6-yard line.
North Boone moved the ball down the field on the ensuing possession and was about to put the finishing touches on a 94-yard scoring drive, but the Vikings’ Cooper Baden fumbled the ball into the end zone and it was recovered by Mendota’s Cody Jenner for a touchback.
Mendota took over at the 20, but the offense stalled and punted the ball back to North Boone. Baden gathered in the punt off the foot of Damien Magallanes and returned it 26 yards to the Trojan 31-yard line. Twenty-four seconds later, Emanuel darted into the end zone almost untouched from 16 yards out to make it 13-0 at the 7:13 mark of the second period. The PAT kick was no good.
The second half featured turnovers by both clubs. It started for Mendota with the second-half kickoff when Emilio Perez couldn’t maintain possession of the ball and it was pounced on by North Boone’s James Linn at the Trojan 34. The Vikings advanced the ball to the Mendota 3-yard line, where on fourth-and-one, Jenner picked off an Emanuel aerial and returned it to the 6-yard line to thwart the threat.
The Trojans executed a nice fake punt on the ensuing possession when Cole Stremlau took the snap from center and rambled 13 yards for a first down. But Mendota eventually turned the ball over on downs, and North Boone began its final scoring drive of the game.
Taking over at their own 44-yard line, the Vikings needed eight plays to cover 56 yards, with Baden slicing into the end zone from the 7-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. North Boone’s PAT attempt went awry and it was 19-0.
Each team turned the ball over twice in the fourth frame, Mendota fumbling twice and North Boone fumbling and throwing an interception. Uzi Angulo had the fumble recovery for the Trojans and Omar Gonzalez snatched the interception.
The Trojans set up at their own 15 after the Gonzalez pick with just under three minutes left in the game. Mendota advanced the ball down to the North Boone 12-yard line, where with 3.4 seconds left, Andres Castaneda made a nifty catch of a Landgraf pass in the back corner of the end zone to erase the goose egg on the scoreboard for the Trojans. Perez kicked the extra point.
Mendota finished with 198 total yards compared to 344 for North Boone. Each team ran 51 plays from scrimmage.
Stremlau rushed 20 times for 62 yards and Jenner gained 55 yards on seven totes. Landgraf completed four passes for 55 yards, all to Castaneda. Emanuel accounted for 290 of North Boone’s yards, rushing for 102 and passing for 188.
Stremlau led the defense with eight tackles and five assists.