Interception by Westlake in closing minutes seals the deal.
Rallying to outscore the Hawley Nuggets 12-0 in the fourth quarter Friday night in Hawley, the Pirate football team nailed down its first win of the season, 25-17, keeping the Nuggets, a traditional section power that’s in the midst of a rebuild, winless on the season.
The victory wasn’t secured, however, until senior Quinn Westlake picked off a Nugget pass with less than two minutes and Hawley near midfield. “Quinn made some big plays for us in the game,” Coach Scott Butt said. On the game-sealing interception, Butt noted that Westlake did a great job of reading the play.
Although he only managed 53 yards on 17 carries, Pirate tailback Ethan Boll, a freshman, scored three touchdowns on the night. But perhaps his biggest play came in the first quarter, after Hawley put together a nice drive and scored to go up 7-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Boll returned the kick 60 yards to put Crookston in nice field position. Although the Pirates eventually turned the ball over on downs, they were able to flip field position and give themselves confidence that they could have some success on the night. The Pirates eventually forced a fumble and had a short field again and score.
Boll was strong in multiple facets of the game, Butt said.
“Ethan did a good job all night of dropping his shoulders and punishing defenders,” he said.
The Pirates managed 144 yards on the ground on the night, to Hawley’s 203 yards. But senior quarterback Leyton Salentine threw for 110 yards, while the Nuggets managed over 50 yards through the air. Asked if he was encouraged by the Pirates’ aerial attack – Westlake had three grabs for 28 yards and senior tight end Ty Hamre had two catches for 70 yards – Butt said the team made a “big step forward” in that area.
“We ran good routes and did a good job of putting the ball in spots for our guys to make plays,” he said. “I think that will give us some confidence moving forward, to being able to pass more.”
Owning the fourth quarter and, really, most of the second half, for the head coach was especially gratifying. “The kids felt like they could keep playing for a couple more quarters if they had to,” Butt said. “It really makes you believe that you are doing the right things in practice.”
The Pirates’ schedule is tough this season, but Butt knew it was going to ease up, even if only a little bit. He knows they need to go on a run to close out the season if they’re going to enjoy any post-season success.
“The biggest thing we are talking about is continuing to work hard and believe in your teammates and the system and we will be in good shape to win,” he said. “We will continue to talk about the way we practice is the way games are won.” It’s also about taking it one game at a time, Butt added.
He acknowledged, when asked about the current state of the Nuggets, that it was a bit strange to go on the road and defeat the Nuggets, a perennial power. “Hawley is in a rebuild but they have some good players and will be back up in no time,” Butt said. “But, yes, it was a little strange. I think we could have some good games against them in the coming years. The big thing now is we know we can beat them.”
The Pirates travel to Roseau on Oct. 4 to take on the Rams, then it's back home after a three-game road trip to take on Breckenridge in Crookston's homecoming game.