Esko edges Gobblers for football top seed

Aitkin’s Gus Sanford (17) is taken down by the Esko defense during last week’s 14-12 loss to the Eskomos.

When two teams have 11 wins and just one loss between them and meet on the football field, usually the team that makes the most mistakes ends up on the losing end.

That team was Aitkin Oct. 14, as the 5-1 Gobblers met up with the visiting 6-0 Esko Eskomos. The result was a 14-12 win for Esko, a win that sets them up as the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Minnesota State High School League Section 7AAA playoffs.

Both teams scored two touchdowns but the Gobblers’ inability to add the conversion points proved to be the difference.

“The game was exactly what we thought it was going to be – a hard-fought game between two good teams,” said Aitkin coach Alan Hills. “It really came down to one or two plays.”

The Eskomos scored both of the their touchdowns in a minute and a half in the first quarter.

After Aitkin took the opening kickoff and moved 70 yards downfield, they were stopped on fourth down at the Esko 5-yard line. Esko took six plays to take it back downfield to take the lead.

The big play of the drive was the final one, as Nolan Witt went 47 yards down the sideline for the score. Wyatt Stankiwisz kicked the point after and it was 7-0.

Aitkin went three and out, and on the punt attempt, Esko’s Carter Zezulka broke in and blocked it, sending it toward the sideline where Joey Antonutti picked it up and scrambled into the end zone.

Stankiwisz again booted the point and it was 14-0 after one period. Neither team really mustered much offense the rest of the half and Esko led at the break 14-0.

The Gobbler defense really stepped it up in the second half, forcing a three and out for the Eskomos. The Gobblers ran six plays before punting again, but Esko did the same, with Aitkin taking over at the Eskomos’ 42.

Nine plays later, Gus Sanford scored his seventh touchdown of the season, going 13 yards for the score. On the touchdown, however, the Gobblers were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the extra point try back to the 18-yard line.

Instead of going for the usual two-point conversion, the locals had to kick from there. Zach Ehnstrom’s boot was true but just short and it was 14-6.

Aitkin got the ball back late in the game, and Ehnstrom hit Zach MacDonald down the middle and he took it to the house for the touchdown. The two-point try failed, however.

The Gobblers close out the regular season at Veterans Field at 7 p.m. against Hibbing Wednesday.

Esko                          14   0   0   0   –   14

Aitkin                        0   0   6   6   –   12


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