MINNEAPOLIS — The defense of West Central Area/Ashby (WCA/A) showed up and showed out on Friday, leading the Knights to a thrilling 8-7 win over Maple River in semifinal action of the Class AA state playoffs. Both teams were held scoreless in the first 12 minutes of the contest. The Knights broke through in the second quarter, with a 10-play, 58-yard drive resulting in a fourth-down touchdown pass of 16 yards from Anthony Sykora to Cole Anderson. The two-point attempt failed, giving WCA/A a 6-0 advantage.

Maple River would answer late in the first half, scoring a touchdown and getting the extra point with just 13 seconds remaining. They would take the 7-6 lead into the break. The Eagles got the ball to begin the second half and turned the ball over on downs inside the Knights red zone. After an exchange of possessions, an interception by Maple River at their own 1-yard line quelled a WCA/A drive. However, the Knights did not drop their heads. After a 2-yard gain on first down, senior Hunter Norby broke through the line and crushed the Eagles running back, resulting in a safety and an 8-7 lead.

That score would hold into the fourth quarter and the Knights defense bent but didn’t break, including a fourth down stop at their 12-yard line with just over a minute left in the game. A couple of kneel downs in victory formation vaulted the Knights in the championship game next Friday at 1 p.m. versus Chatfiled at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

WCA/A finished with 145 rushing yards and 185 total yards on offense. Sykora accounted for 90 of those yards on the ground and the touchdown pass. The defense held the Eagles to just a 2.1 yard average per rush, came up with four sacks and limited Maple River to just 1 of 4 in red-zone opportunities. The win pushed their record to 11-1 on the season.

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