BATTLE LAKE — The West Central Area/Ashby football team shook the rust off after falling behind 18-0 in the first half of its 2020 opening game against Otter Tail Central to rally and win 30-18 Saturday.
The OTC Bulldogs got on the board first as they converted a Knights fumble into a 10-yard touchdown run by Calvin Stueve in the first quarter. The Bulldogs went for a two-point conversion, but failed leaving the score at 6-0. West Central Area again turned the ball over as Brady VanErp recovered a fumble for OTC. The Bulldogs went up 12-0 seven plays later as Drew Durbin dove into the endzone from a yard out.
Firing on all cylinders, the Bulldogs took their next possession 57 yards down the field as quarterback Tanner Arndt found VanErp for a 10-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Another failed conversion left the score at 18-0 before the half.
After halftime, the Knights came back out refocused as they forced a three-and-out and got the ball back. West Central Area would used a 10-play, 72-yard drive to get on the board as Anthony Sykora sprinted into the endzone for a 5-yard touchdown. Quarterback Evan Paulson would find Jaden Norby for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 10. OTC would commit a miscue of their own as a bad snap on a punt gave the ball to the Knights on the Bulldogs 32. Sykora would cut through the defense on the next play for a 32-yard touchdown run. Sykora added the two-pointer as the Bulldogs held a slim 18-16 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Knights defense continued to play strong as they forced a Bulldogs punt. West Central Area did not squander their opportunity as they went 68 yards and capped it with Sykora third rushing touchdown, this one on a 16-yard scamper. Another successful two-point conversion put the Knights in the driver’s seat 24-18. The Knights would score one more time in the game as a 44-yard run by Sykora setup a three-yard touchdown run by Jaden Norby.
“Really proud of how the boys responded to the adversity,” Knights head coach Nate Wood said. “Down three scores, turned the ball over four times, it would have been easy to quit. They never gave up, however, and were able to come away with the win.”
The Knights were led on the ground by Sykora with 180 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns, while receiver Jordan Lohse caught four passes for 50 yards. Hunter Norby led the team on defense with 12 tackles.
For the Bulldogs, Arndt went 13-for-18 with 129 yards, while VanErp finished with 99 yards receiving on nine catches. Defensively, VanErp picked up two fumbles, while Arndt and Stueve each had an interception.
The victory marked the first time that the Knights have defeated the Bulldogs since 2011.
The Knights (1-0) will open their home season Friday as they take on Crookston at 6 p.m.