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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton advances to Class 3A semifinals with win over Esko

Owen Leach's interception in the end zone with 1:01 remaining in the fourth quarter sent the Rebels to U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time in six years.

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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Owen Leach reaches to intercept a pass intended for Esko's Makoi Perich with coverage from teammate Caleb Johnson late in the fourth quarter during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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BRAINERD, Minn. — For the first time since 2016, the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton football team has punched its ticket to U.S. Bank Stadium.

Behind a game-clinching, end zone interception by senior Owen Leach, the Rebels held on to defeat Esko 21-17 on Saturday and advanced to the Class 3A state semifinals

With the win, D-G-F improved to 11-0 and will now face 10-2 Fairmont on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. in downtown Minneapolis.

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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton head coach Anthony Soderberg celebrates with a victory slide after the 21-17 win over Esko during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

On offense, Leach threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns including a go-ahead 85-yard strike to junior Nicholas Waale with 7 minutes, 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

It was Leach's efforts on defense, however, that sealed it for the Rebels. With just over a minute remaining and Esko facing a third-and-goal from the 17-yard line down four points, Leach picked off Eskomos senior quarterback Ty Christensen on a last-gasp heave to the end zone intended for junior running back/receiver Makoi Perich. D-G-F iced it from there with four more plays to run out the clock.

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"We knew (Christensen) was going to go to (No.) 21 (Perich) because he's a stud," Leach said of the interception. "But I read it, went up and made a play and we won."

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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Owen Leach celebrates the win over Esko after the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Perich finished with 181 total yards and both Esko touchdowns. Looking to take the lead back late, the Eskomos had the ball second-and-goal at the Rebels' two-yard line before three procedure penalties on the next four plays backed them up to the D-G-F 17. Leach's pick came with 1:01 to play.

Esko took a 7-0 lead on its first offensive possession, capping a six-play, 57 yard drive with a 35-yard connection from Christensen to Perich with 8:03 left in the opening frame.

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Esko's Makoi Perich snares a touchdown reception in the first quarter against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Brody Friend during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

D-G-F was held off the scoreboard until the third quarter after the Rebels stuffed a driving Eskomos team on fourth-and-1 from the D-G-F 19.

The Rebels used the stop as a momentum shifter, with Leach finding junior tight end Brody O'Keefe on a 61-yard pass to get into Eskomos territory. D-G-F drove to the one-yard line and senior running back Jordan Summers punched it in for his 21st rushing touchdown of the season. Sophomore Hayden Hauf's extra point kick tied the game 7-7 with 7:08 left in the third.

Senior running back Javontae Gregory fumbled on the next Esko possession and D-G-F recovered. The Rebels took their first lead of the game when Leach found O'Keefe on a 23-yard touchdown pass. Hauf's extra point made it 14-7 late in the third.

For D-G-F head coach Anthony Soderberg, the red zone stand coupled with forcing four turnovers changed the trajectory of the game.

"If you know Rebel football, we hang our hat on the defensive side of the ball," Soderberg said. "So that was a big stop by (the defense). It really changed the momentum and we were able to get some good field position and put a couple of points up."

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The Eskomos proceeded to score the next 10 points on a 30-yard run from Perich with one second remaining in the third quarter, and a 35-yard field goal from senior Wyatt Hudspith to give Esko a 17-14 lead with 7:42 to play in the fourth.

On the very next play after the kickoff, Leach hit Waale in stride for 85 yards to put D-G-F back on top.

"We ran our tight ends two guys out and (Esko) had two-high and they split them," Leach said. "And then our running back came right to the middle and it was a touchdown from the start of the play, honestly. So that was exciting."

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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Nicholas Waale reels in a touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against Esko during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Leach finished 12-of-17 passing with one interception. Waale hauled in three catches for 120 yards while O'Keefe finished with three receptions for 92 yards. Summers led the Rebels' ground game with 62 yards on 27 attempts.

Esko's Christensen finished 8-of-17 for 101 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Perich had 123 yards on the ground on 13 attempts and he made three catches for 58 yards. Senior back Nolan Witt finished with 101 yards on 23 carries.

Esko finished its season 11-1.

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Esko's Nolan Witt carries against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Jordan Summers during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Soderberg said getting back to U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time in six years is a credit to all the players on his roster.

"These kids have busted their butts for the last couple of years and have worked really hard to get here," Soderberg said. "Both teams played hard and we were able to come out on top."

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ESK 7 0 7 3—17
DGF 0 0 14 7—21

ESK — Perich 35 pass from Christensen (Hudspith kick)

DGF — Summers 1 run (Hauf kick)

DGF — O'Keefe 23 pass from Leach (Hauf kick)

ESK — Perich 30 run (Hudspith kick)

ESK — Hudspith 35 field goal

DGF — Waale 85 pass from Leach (Hauf kick)

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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Victor Sosa Krabbenhoft celebrates the hard fought win over Esko after the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Nicholas Waale dives for the goal line against Esko's Ty Christensen and Bryce Hipp during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Owen Leach tracks down an Esko fumble during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Brody O'Keefe grabs a touchdown reception against Esko's Javontae Gregory during the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton head coach Anthony Soderberg celebrates the 21-17 win over Esko with his team after the Minnesota 3A quarterfinals in Brainerd on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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