YANKTON – Steve Kueter’s quest for the all-time wins record held by Yankton’s Max Hawk has included some classic battles between O’Gorman and the Bucks.
Friday’s game under the lights at Crane-Youngworth Field hardly fit the bill, save for the historic mark, as the Knights forced four turnovers and racked up 287 first-half rushing yards to get their coach his 284th victory.
Moments after the 35-0 score went final, Kueter customarily shook hands, then made a beeline to the locker room only to be interrupted at various intervals by cameras and congratulations.
Kueter downplayed the record, giving props instead to Hawk.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Max Hawk,” Kueter said. “He’s won a lot of games on this field… I like coming down here. There’s a lot of tradition here.”
The two legendary coaches actually spoke over the phone before the game.
“He’s living the good life in Arizona. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal to him, either,” Kueter said, laughing. “He said, ‘I wish you good luck. But not tonight.’”
“What we’re worried about right now is getting better every week and winning a state championship,” Kueter said. “[The players] are aware of it but they’ve got a lot more important things to worry about.”
In the postgame glow, Kueter’s players made their own case for the record’s significance.
“It means a lot to us. We love coach Kueter,” said guard/linebacker Billy Daniel, who had an interception and fumble recovery. “I grew up watching him coach. It means the world to be able to tie the record for him, and next week we’ll be able to beat it for him.”
From the outset, O’Gorman’s classic double-wing attack was in full force. O’Gorman raced to a 28-0 halftime lead with touchdown runs from Luke Fritsch, Dodi Makwinja and Boston Bauer, and Fritsch connected with Ryan Scholten on a 12-yard score.
The Knights found a rhythm mixing in inside and outside runs, end arounds, and the occasional pass downfield. Yankton, by contrast, ran just 19 first-half plays and opened the second half with interceptions on its first two possessions.
Makwinja in particular gashed the Bucks for big gains and finished with 16 carries for 135 yards, while Fritsch rushed for 88 yards to go with a 4-for-6 passing effort for 66 yards. Yankton’s Rayden Terca moved from his spot at quarterback last week to receiver. He led Yankton with 130 total yards – 76 rushing, 54 receiving.
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In earlier season matchups against Roosevelt and Washington, the Knights ran into a predictability problem at times. Even with the misdirection they run, mixed in with an efficient passing game, defenses keyed on Fritsch and Makwinja before the snap.
The return of Bauer from a leg injury has given the Knights another explosive target. Bauer had only six touches Friday, but made the most of them with two touchdowns.
“Something we haven’t had is that inside runner from the halfback position,” Kueter said. “And Boston brings that to us.”
Daniel shared that former Knights standout Josh Mahoney, who visited with the team during homecoming last week upon his induction into the school’s athletic hall of fame, said Bauer’s return from injury has given “the team our mojo back.”
“We’re getting it back,” Daniel said. “We’ll see those teams we lost to at the end of the season.”
Bauer’s return will only help, especially for Makwinja, who has had to play significant snaps at linebacker because of other injuries.
“The first couple games Luke and I were getting pretty battered, but since Boston’s back it’s great because we can share and defenses don’t know,” Makwinja said. “Now it’s a little bit of a guessing game.”
BANGED UP BUCKS
In Yankton’s past eight quarters, they’ve surrendered 66 points and 12 turnovers. They’re scoreless through the same stretch.
It doesn’t help that the team has been decimated by injuries.
“We’ve got to get through that stuff. We’ve got to be able to take care of the ball. We’ve got to find something that we can execute with some confidence,” said coach Arlin Likness.
“We’ve got to understand what we can do and can’t do. And that’s what we talked about. What can we run for the Bucks to be able to score points. Right now, we’re kind of at a loss. We’ve got to get it figured out and get on track and salvage a decent season.”
O’Gorman 14 14 7 0 — 35
Yankton 0 0 0 0 — 0
OG — Luke Fritsch 5 run (Kristian Jakowicz kick)
OG — Boston Bauer 6 run (Jakowicz kick)
OG — Dodi Makwinja 1 run (Jakowicz kick)
OG — Ryan Scholten 12 pass from Fritsch (Jakowicz kick)
OG — Bauer 3 run (Jakowicz kick)
RUSHING: O’Gorman — Makwinja 16-135, Fritsch 14-88, Antonio Casiello 5-52, Scholten 2-35, Bauer 6-34, Jack Peery 2-18, Andrew Reuter 1-1, TJ Schaefer 2-(-9); Yankton — Rayden Terca 5-76, Brendon Caskey 12-64, Sheldon Gant 8-36, Nate Stephenson 9-31
PASSING: O’Gorman — Fritsch 4-6-0-66; Yankton — Stephenson 5-10-3-100, Tyler Strahl 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING: O’Gorman — Mark Pals 1-27, Scholten 2-21, Peery 1-18; Yankton — Terca 3-54, Gant 1-34, Caskey 1-12
Friday’s high school scores, schedule