Golden Eagle Football doesn't win often but when it does the fans and players know how to celebrate.
Students rushed the field and players handled their Golden Eagle Homecoming victory with class as they beat Southwest Minnesota State 33-28 Saturday at Ed Widseth Field, snappping a 13-game losing streak and putting to rest a 39-game losing streak against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opponents.
"It's good to see the kids smile," Golden Eagle Head Coach Paul Miller said after his first win at the helm of the program. "This is just one win. It will feel good to go back to work, though. This team has great work ethic and nobody on this team had won a conference game. Hopefully everyone got a little return on their investment today."
Golden Eagle sophomore quarterback A.J. Barge sees this win as a stepping stone.
"This feels great," he said after the win. "It's great for the coaches also. We've got more to clean up but it's great to get out of here with a W. This is something we can build our confidence with. There will be plenty more wins to come. You can believe that."
Senior running back Richard Haley rushed for 232 yards on 34 carries and scored three touchdowns, including a spectacular 60-yard touchdown run on the first play, to lead the Golden Eagles to the big win.
Barge was solid, completing 14 of 26 passes for 158 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He also rushed for 32 yards on eight carries with a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Marcus Cheatham had six receptions for 91 yards and one touchdown.
The Golden Eagles led 19-7 at halftime and took a 33-14 lead into the fourth quarter before the Mustangs rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to cut the deficit to five points. The Golden Eagles went to Haley, though, on their final drive and ran out the clock.
Haley got everything rolling with a 60-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, out-running everyone.
Southwest Minnesota State answered with a 10-play, 67-yard drive on its next possession that was capped by a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tyler Peschong with 10:07 remaining in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7.
The Golden Eagle offense kept rolling and capped a 13-play, 85-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run by Barge, who dove just inside the pylon for the score with 4:49 left in the first quarter.
Following a fumble on the next Mustang possession, Minnesota, Crookston built its lead with a one-yard leap into the end zone by Haley with 11:13 remaining in the second quarter to make it 19-7.
After a three and out by the Mustangs to start the second half, the Golden Eagles capitalized with 35-yard touchdown pass from Barge to Cheatham with 9:31 left in the third quarter, making it 26-7.
Page 2 of 2 - Southwest Minnesota State answered with a 58-yard touchdown run by Warren Matthews on its next possession, giving the Mustangs some life with the score 26-14 and 7:49 left in the third quarter.
Minnesota, Crookston continued to put points on the board with a 20-yard touchdown run by Haley with 2:27 left in the third quarter, capping a 10-play, 78-yard drive and eating up 7:44 on the clock.
The Mustang rally began on the next possession with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Peschong to Gannon Moore with 12:05 left in the fourth quarter, making the score 33-21.
Following a stalled Golden Eagle drive and a punt, Moore brought the Mustangs to within five points with an eight-yard touchdown run with 4:48 left on the clock.
The Golden Eagles ate up the rest of the clock, though, with a ten-play, 34-yard drive that ended with Barge taking a knee for the win.
Senior Golden Eagle defensive back Cecil Brown recorded a season-high 15 tackles and had a fumble recovery, while sophomore linebacker Brody Davidson had eight tackles and a forced fumble. Junior linebacker Ricky Jacobs and junior defensive back Freedom McCullough each had an interception.
Peschong was 18 of 28 passing for the Mustangs with 187 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Matthews rushed for 139 yards on 13 carries with a score. Moore caught ten passes for 118 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 69 yards on ten carries and a touchdown. Peschong rushed for 28 yards on six carries and a touchdown.
Minnesota, Crookston, now 1-3 overall and 1-3 in the NSIC, will travel to Bemidji next Saturday for a clash with the Bemidji State Beavers, who are also 1-3 on the season.