Last hurrah: Win-E-Mac dominates South Ridge, 50-0, to cap off COVID-shortened season
ERSKINE — Win-E-Mac's seniors didn't get to cap off their careers with a state championship. They didn't even get to defend their section crown.
But with six minutes remaining in Friday's game and the Patriots beating South Ridge by 44, Aaron Cook subbed his seniors out of the game. The gesture could have been seen as an act of mercy towards the beaten and bruised Panthers. But more than anything, it was the Win-E-Mac coach ensuring that his nine graduating players would have one last moment to say goodbye.
No, it wasn't a title. But a standing ovation in front of your home fans and parents isn't that bad a final memory.
On Friday night, Win-E-Mac routed South Ridge, 50-0, in the final game of a unique, unpredictable season that came to a premature end amid a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic that triggered a shutdown of high school sports on Wednesday.
Fortunately for the Patriots, Gov. Tim Walz's executive order didn't go into effect until Saturday, allowing them to get one more game in. Cook said they were looking for a section game at first, but Fertile-Beltrami, the No. 2 team in Section 6, was unable to play, and South Ridge reached out to Win-E-Mac instead.
The Panthers were not only the best team in Section 5, but the only team that hadn't shut down yet. So Friday's game came into being; the No. 4 and No. 9 ranked teams in the state in a de facto state tournament quarterfinal.
"They were pretty good," said senior Kobe Hamre. "Probably one of the best teams we've played this year, so props to them for coming up here. Just happy we got the game in."
At no point Friday did the two teams appear close to evenly matched, though. South Ridge (6-1) went 3-and-out on its first two possessions, and was outgained 466-109 for the night. Running back Connor Bushbaum came in as Minnesota's leading rusher across all classes, averaging 244 yards per game on 12 yards per carry. He didn't have a run longer than six yards, and would finish with just one-sixth of his gaudy average.
Meanwhile, Win-E-Mac's offense took flight, ripping off yards up the middle, outside the tackles and through the air. Senior quarterback Gavin Walker led the way, rushing for 152 yards and three touchdowns, including an 11-yard score on the Patriots' first drive. He found the end zone again in the second quarter on a 39-yard run, and in the third, turned a 4th-and-short into a tackle-breaking, 31-yard jaunt for his final score.
Walker (7-15, 108 yards) did plenty with his arm, too. Facing a 3rd-and-16 late in the first half, he stepped to his right while evading a series of Panthers, biding time for somebody to break open. Eventually, Hamre did, and Walker uncorked a 43-yard bomb right into his chest to set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Tom Martushev. Walker and Hamre connected once more in the first half, on a 10-yard laser over the middle which made it 30-0.
"When we got the film on them I thought we could do some things on them offensively," Cook said. "On offense, we've played really really well since week three. The only thing that's slowed us down is ourselves at times."
South Ridge came in allowing 7.3 points per game, having held all of its opponents to 20 points or less. Win-E-Mac (6-1) did that in both halves.
"We've always had a mentality that we're coming for everyone," Walker said. "We're gonna give everything we have. We're going balls to the wall, just off the roof."
Soon after Remy Goodwin's 47-yard run made it 44-0 midway through the third and the game went to a running clock, Cook took his seniors out. His backups, though, had time for one more touchdown, a Jonas Spry 21-yard run with one minute to play.
The Patriots began and ended their season with a shutout. They outscored their opponents 277-65 in all. They had nine seniors returning — an army in 9-man football terms — from a team that went 12-1 and made it to the state semifinals last season.
But Friday night wasn't about what could have been for one of the most talented, and dominant, teams in the state. It was about what had already taken place to get Win-E-Mac to this point.
"They deserved to get this last game in against a high quality opponent," Cook said. "... It's all about the guys. It's not about any one given thing, it's just about the guys, and the effort and energy they bring day in and day out, not just this year but for five years. Everything we've asked for them and everything they've given, that's what we're gonna remember."
"These guys, they're my family, I've grown up with them my entire life," Hamre said. "I'd say we're probably the best seniors I've ever seen. I love them, so this season really meant a lot. Even though we didn't get a full season, I was just happy to be able to play with them one last year."
NOTES: Friday's win was the last game in a Patriot uniform for Walker, Hamre, Goodwin, Martushev, Alex Jacobson, Bryce DuChamp, Bryer Strom, Gavin Haskett and Reed Neubert.
Walker finished his career with 260 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. Goodwin racked up 134 yards from scrimmage: 82 on the ground and 52 through the air. Hamre had 56 yards receiving and 35 yards rushing, while Martushev gained 31 yards rushing. Even Haskett, the center, got a carry, rumbling for 14 yards on the Patriots' final drive.
"Being a senior, you just never thought you'd ever be in this situation," said Walker, who called the group his second family. "... These four years have been crazy, especially this last year for us. It was a good note to end on."
South Ridge 0-0-0-0—0
7:11 first quarter (Win-E-Mac): Gavin Walker 11-yard run (run failed)
7:11 second quarter (Win-E-Mac): Gavin Walker 39-yard run (Kobe Hamre pass from Gavin Walker)
3:15 second quarter (Win-E-Mac): Tom Martushev 10-yard run (Gavin Walker run)
0:20 second quarter (Win-E-Mac): Kobe Hamre 10-yard pass from Gavin Walker (Kobe Hamre pass from Gavin Walker)
8:21 third quarter (Win-E-Mac): Gavin Walker 31-yard run (run failed)
5:00 third quarter (Win-E-Mac): Remy Goodwin 47-yard run (Tom Martushev run)
1:17 fourth quarter (Win-E-Mac): Jonas Spry 21-yard run (run failed)
- Win-E-Mac: Gavin Walker 7-15, 108 yards, 1 touchdown
- South Ridge: Connor Bushbaum 1-4, 7 yards, Aaron Bennett 0-6, 0 yards
- Win-E-Mac: Gavin Walker 14-152-3, Remy Goodwin 6-82-1, Kobe Hamre 3-35, Tom Martushev 6-31-1, Jonas Spry 3-22-1, Caden Shaver 2-18, Gavin Haskett 1-14, Alex Jacobson 1-9, Chase Shear 1-3, Bryer Strom 1-1, Kaleb Morberg 1-(-3), Team 1-(-6)
- South Ridge: Connor Bushbaum 19-39, Aaron Bennett 2-22, Zack Wells 2-21, Tyler Anderson 8-20
- Win-E-Mac: Kobe Hamre 3-56-1, Remy Goodwin 4-52
- South Ridge: Trevor Miller 1-7
- Win-E-Mac: Gavin Walker 2.5 TFL, 1 FR, Tom Martushev 1 TFL, Bryer Strom 0.5 TFL, Kobe Hamre 1 PBU
- Total yardage: Win-E-Mac 466, South Ridge 109
- First downs: Win-E-Mac 14, South Ridge 8
- Third-down conversions: Win-E-Mac 5-11, South Ridge 4-11
- Fourth-down conversions: Win-E-Mac 4-5, South Ridge 0-0
- Punting: Win-E-Mac 1-39, South Ridge 6-142
- Penalties: Win-E-Mac 4-40, South Ridge 3-25
- Turnovers: Win-E-Mac 0, South Ridge 1 fumble lost
- Time of possession: Win-E-Mac 26:00, South Ridge 22:00
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