Trickery in final minute gives Spuds a thrilling win
ALEXANDRIA, Minn. - Moorhead senior running back Jade Lawrence offered up a suggestion to head coach Kevin Feeney during a timeout with close to 30 seconds left and his team trailing by one point on Friday night.
ALEXANDRIA, Minn. – Moorhead senior running back Jade Lawrence offered up a suggestion to head coach Kevin Feeney during a timeout with close to 30 seconds left and his team trailing by one point on Friday night.
The Spuds had just gone backwards on two straight plays after getting to the Alexandria 6-yard line, needing just a field goal for the win.
A 5-yard loss on first-and-goal and an 11-yard sack by Cardinals’ linebacker Nick Partington left Moorhead in a third-and-goal situation at the 20-yard line.
At that point, it was time for a little trickery. Quarterback Matt Bye hit junior receiver Tristen Nelson with a pass that he caught near the 10-yard line.
Nelson was getting wrapped up, but had just enough strength to lateral the ball perfectly to Lawrence, who ran toward the right pylon for the game-winning score in an 18-13 win for the Spuds in Alexandria in both teams’ football season opener.
“I actually recommended it to Coach Feeney,” Lawrence said with a smile. “I did. He said if it’s not press coverage, we run it, and we ran it and Tristen Nelson made a heck of a catch and held onto it. It was just a great all-around effort on the last drive.
That drive started at the Moorhead 9-yard line as the Spuds went 91 yards in 5 minutes, 37 seconds.
They needed some big plays to get it done as Bye hit Nelson for a 27-yard catch down the right sideline on the drive and scrambled for a 16-yard run himself that got the ball inside the 10.
Alexandria had held Moorhead scoreless on six straight possessions before that, as the Spuds scored all 12 of their previous points in the first quarter. Lawrence had the first touchdown on a 31-yard run on his team’s second possession.
Nelson then caught a 20-yard touchdown from Bye on the next drive that gave Moorhead all the momentum early.
The Spuds needed a couple more plays from Nelson and Lawrence, and both delivered on the final drive. Alexandria had one last chance, but a Jaran Roste Hail Mary was intercepted by Colton Staton in the end zone with no time left on the clock.
“We knew it,” Lawrence said when asked if the Spuds were confident having to go 91 yards to win it. “We got three of our offensive linemen from last year, and we put together drives like that all the time. It’s just a little reflection of what we’ve been through as a team, as an offensive unit. It really came together well on that last drive.”
It was a tough pill for the Cardinals to swallow after playing so well in the final three quarters.
“It came down to a trick play, less than a minute to go and on a third and very long to go that well,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. “It looked like the kid caught the ball twice.
“We almost ripped the ball out. It was Sam or Michael Helgeson over there who just made a great ball break and got there with the football and had him wrapped up. I don’t know how he got that lateral out there.”
Empting gave credit to Lawrence and Nelson for making a play when they needed to but said he was proud of the way his guys battled a perennially tough Moorhead team. Alexandria got on the board with 2:31 left in the second quarter when Roste hit senior receiver Joe Gorghuber for a 14-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals forced a three-and-out on defense and positioned themselves to score again before the half. Roste scrambled away from pressure and found Gorghuber on a 26-yard strike as time expired.
Alexandria thought it had tied the game, but a penalty for an illegal man down field negated the score.
M 12 0 0 6–18
A 0 6 0 7–13
M–Lawrence 31 run (kick failed)
M–Nelson 20 pass from Bye (conversion failed)
A–Gorghuber 14 pass from Rose (conversion failed)
A–Cumberbatch 2 run (Nienaber kick)
M–Nelson 10 pass from Bye
RUSHING: M, Lawrence 10-88, Duginski 6-17, Klindt 1-2, Taylor 5-11, Lien 1-9.
PASSING: M, Bye 6-12-0 98 yards.
RECEIVING: M, Lawrence 3-35, Duginski 1-8, Taylor 1-10, Nelson 4-68.