Winnebago uses quick strikes to sink Trojans

Mendota’s Cody Jenner tries to avoid the grab of Winnebago’s Dominic Mastroianni after a pass reception on Sept. 6 at the MHS field. (Reporter photo)

MENDOTA – In the opening game of the season, Mendota’s opponent needed less than a minute and a half to score a touchdown. Winnebago nearly matched that in game two against the Trojans. The difference was that Mendota was able to temper the scoring against North Boone, while Winnebago visited the end zone on an all-too-frequent basis the rest of the game.

The end result was a 49-13 victory by Winnebago over the Trojans in Big Northern Conference action on Sept. 6 at the MHS field. Mendota fell to 0-2 on the season and in league play.

One glance at a few of the statistics without looking at the final score would indicate a high probability of Mendota winning. The Trojans ran 57 plays from scrimmage compared to 34 for Winnebago. The Trojans possessed the ball nearly 70 percent of the time. But the Indians churned out 357 yards to Mendota’s 152, and they used up less than two minutes of the clock to score six of their seven touchdowns.

The first Winnebago touchdown came after Mendota’s defense had the Indians pinned deep in their own territory facing a third-and-24 from the 20-yard line. But Winnebago’s Micah Gearhart took a handoff and went right up the gut 80 yards for a TD at the 10:37 mark of the opening stanza. The extra-point kick was no good.

Disaster struck the Trojans on their first offensive play of the game when a fumble was pounced on by Winnebago’s Cole Schrank at the Trojan 21-yard line. But Mendota was able to thwart a golden opportunity by the Indians when the Trojans’ Omar Gonzalez fell on a Winnebago fumble at the half-yard line.

Mendota’ offense couldn’t pick up a first down and a punt gave the Indians possession at the Trojan 39-yard line. The Winnebago drive took 1:47 off the clock, culminating in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Zach Johnson to Larson Garrigan. Winnebago attempted a two-point conversion pass, but the receiver dropped the ball.

On its ensuing offensive series, Mendota was forced to punt, but the snap from center sailed high over the head of Damien Magallanes. He was tackled in the end zone for a safety and a 14-0 Winnebago lead.

The Indians tacked on one more score before the conclusion of the first quarter when they drove just 18 yards, capped off by a 7-yard TD pass from Johnson to Schrank. Michael Cunningham converted the extra-point kick.

Mendota scored for the first time in the game midway through the second quarter after getting excellent field position thanks to a series of Winnebago penalties. The Trojans put the finishing touches on a 40-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Ted Landgraf to Cody Jenner. Emilio Perez booted the extra-point kick.

But the Indians struck back quickly, needing just 1:20 to complete a 70-yard drive, the final play being a 47-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Cole Seger. Cunningham’s kick made it 28-7, which was the score at intermission.

Winnebago added a pair of touchdowns in the third frame. The first was set up after a 41-yard punt return by Seger down to the Trojan 2-yard line. From there, Jacob Fowler powered into the end zone, followed by a Cunningham kick, to make it 35-7.

After another Trojan punt, Johnson threw his fourth touchdown pass of the night when he connected with Ethan Ackerman from 14 yards out. Cunningham split the uprights on the PAT attempt.

The Trojans put together their best offensive series of the game on the ensuing possession when they used the final 5:20 of the third quarter and over five minutes of the fourth period to drive from their own 36-yard line to the Winnebago 1. But Mendota couldn’t pick up that final yard into the end zone, and it turned the ball over on downs.

Winnebago took over at the 4-yard line, but an Indian fumble was recovered by Magallanes at the 4, and Jenner finished off the short drive with a 4-yard TD run with 6:39 left in the game. The extra-point kick was blocked.

The Indians concluded the scoring on a one-play drive – a 67-yard bolt to the end zone by Eric Schiess, followed by a Cunningham PAT kick.

Mendota gained 79 yards on the ground and 73 in the air. Landgraf ran 13 times for 54 yards and Cole Stremlau picked up 47 yards on 17 carries. Landgraf completed five passes, with Jenner gathering in two receptions for 46 yards.

A bulk of Winnebago’s yards came from its running game (255), with Gearhart totaling 143 on 11 totes. Johnson completed five passes (four for touchdown) for 102 yards.

Trojan coach Keegan Hill said the team came out with a lot of positive energy after the close game with North Boone.

“Our energy level is exciting, but we need to channel our energy a little better and we’re looking forward to doing that in week three against Rockford Lutheran,” he said.

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