Mendota’s Gabe Guzman looks for running room while a host of Winnebago defenders to try chase him down on Aug. 31 at Winnebago. (Reporter photo)
WINNEBAGO – It’s amazing how scoring a touchdown can boost a team’s morale.
Staring at its second straight shutout loss to start the season, Mendota finally visited the end zone for the first time this season late in the fourth quarter of its game with Winnebago. It immediately gave the team a spark, and the Trojans went on to score two more times in the waning minutes of the contest.
Unfortunately for Mendota, the damage had already been done, as the Indians had built up a huge lead prior to the Trojans’ fireworks. When the final buzzer sounded, Winnebago owned a 42-22 victory over Mendota in a Big Northern Conference battle on Aug. 31 at Winnebago.
The Indians used three long scoring drives in the first half to take a 22-0 lead to intermission, and then they tallied once in the third quarter and again midway through the fourth for a 36-0 advantage. Mendota’s offense was stagnant up to that point before it executed its first scoring drive of the season.
Starting at their own 24-yard line with 5:22 to go in the game, the Trojans used a suddenly productive ground combination of Gabe Guzman and Edwin Angulo to advance the ball into Winnebago territory. Then Mendota went to its aerial game and Gavin Glazebrook rifled a perfect slant pass to Eddy Sandoval, who gathered in the offering and sprinted past the Winnebago defenders 44 yards to the end zone. As soon as Sandoval reached the end zone, there was jubilation for the players and a collective sigh of relief for everyone else rooting for the Trojans. Mendota’s two-point conversion attempt was no good.
Winnebago answered with a 70-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jacob Fowler, but the adrenalin was still pumping from Mendota’s score a minute earlier. On the ensuing kickoff, Cole Stremlau picked up the bouncing ball at the 30-yard line and ran straight up the middle to the end zone for a 70-yard kickoff return touchdown. Guzman converted the two-point run to make it 42-14.
Then on Winnebago’s next possession, the Trojans’ Mauricio Escatel stole the ball from a Winnebago runner and rambled 18 yards to paydirt for Mendota’s third touchdown in just a two-and-a-half minute span. Guzman tacked on the two-point conversion run.
With only 1:32 left to play, Winnebago was able to run out the clock.
The Trojans ended the game with 240 yards total offense. Guzman churned out 89 yards on 20 carries and Angulo picked up 83 yards in 16 attempts. Glazebrook completed six passes, with Mason DeFore gathering in three for 15 yards.
The Indians gained 452 yards. They were able to utilize a number of different players from the running back position to pick up 293 rushing yards.
Despite the loss, Trojan coach Keegan Hill saw positive progress in his team from the season-opener a week before.
“I thought we came out and played really hard,” said Hill. “Our energy level was really good. I saw zero sign of us not playing hard.
“I thought we made some nice adjustments and showed signs of growth from week one.”
Winnebago also turned things in a positive direction from its opening-game drubbing at the hands of Byron. After forcing the Trojans to punt on the game’s first offensive series, the Indians used six plays to cover 67 yards, the final 28 coming on a touchdown run by Cole Seger on a nifty running back reverse. Braeden Hanners hammered in the extra-point kick for a 7-0 Indian lead.
Mendota turned the ball over on downs on its next possession and Winnebago took over at its own 39-yard line. The Indians drove to the Trojan 32-yard line where they were facing a fourth-and-9, but quarterback Zachary Johnson hooked up with Seger for a 28-yard completion down to the Mendota 4. From there, Caden Hawkins finished off the drive with a 4-yard TD run. Johnson connected with Tanner Inglima for the two-point pass to make it 15-0 with 2:32 left in the first period.
After another Mendota punt, Winnebago went 55 yards in eight plays, capped off by a 1-yard TD run by Jared Roberts just over a minute into the second quarter. Hanners’ extra-point kick was good.
Mendota’s offense put together its best drive of the game on the ensuing possession when it advanced the ball from its own 32 to the Winnebago 18, but a Glazebrook pass was picked off by Winnebago’s Luke Schiess to thwart the threat. The Indians owned a 22-0 halftime lead.
The lead quickly ballooned to 29-0 when Roberts accepted the second-half kickoff and raced 87 yards to the end zone. Michael Cunningham converted the PAT kick for the Indians.
The rest of the third quarter was scoreless, as was over half of the fourth frame, before each team combined for 35 points in the final 5:23 of the game.
“I was very pleased with our effort,” added Hill. “Hopefully we can improve more this week and see some positive results against Rockford Lutheran.”