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Leola-Fredericks holds off Ipswich for football victory

Gavin Nickelson (26) of Leola-Frederick tries to use the block of teammate Westyn Thorpe (1) against Kyle Hettich of Ipswich during a game Saturday afternoon at Dacotah Bank Stadium. Photo by Dawn Sahli

A rain-soaked Dacotah Bank Stadium provided intrigue on Saturday.

Leola-Frederick came up with a late defensive stand to edge Ipswich 16-12 for a Lake Region Conference football win.

“Great defensive effort. Just a great team effort overall,” said Leola-Frederick assistant coach Trevor VanTilburg said. “We had some guys get hurt and it was great that we just played through and were able to get it done at the end.”

The Titans struck first in the opening quarter on a 16-yard pass from Brayden Sumption to Levi Little, giving them an 8-0 lead after the two-point conversion.

Ipswich put its first points on the board in the second quarter when quarterback Max Kulesa scrambled to his right and into the endzone for an 8-yard score. However, the two-point conversion was no good, and the Titans continued to lead, 8-6.

Kulesa said he improvised on the scoring play.

“I was looking for a pass and I just thought since it’s wet, might as well just tuck it and run,” Kulesa said.

A key play came with 2:41 left in the first half as Ipswich began a drive inside its own five-yard line. The Tigers fumbled the ball and the Titans jumped on it, giving them an opportunity to extend their lead.

VanTilburg talked about the significance of the play.

“Just huge just to be able to keep them off the scoreboard and maintain that lead going into halftime,” VanTilburg said.

Ipswich coach Brian Hogie said the play was a mistake on his part.

“Our quarterback went down. Max has kind of had a little bit of a knee issue in and out throughout the year, and so we had to bring somebody else in not experienced right there,” Hogie said. “We just missed the handoff. We probably should’ve ran something else out of that one. That one’s on me.”

Leola-Frederick took advantage of the turnover on the very next play as Titan running back Westyn Thorpe plunged in from one-yard out. Thorpe thanked his offensive line for opening up running lanes throughout the day.

“I love the blockers up front. They really helped me get through the line,” Thorpe said. “And then I guess it’s just the power that I put behind my legs and then it’s just all work, all mental.”

Sumption added the two-point conversion and the Titans went into the half with a 16-6 lead and momentum.

Throughout the game, the steady rain caused problems for both teams. The Titans struggled with several snaps that led to fumbles, two of which were lost to the Tigers. VanTilburg said the weather, as well as injuries, caused the team’s ball security issues.

“Our starting center went down early, so we had a sophomore out there probably getting his first meaningful varsity snaps,” VanTilburg said. “He stepped up and ultimately we were able to get it done.”

Ipswich’s Kyle Hettich (3) looks for running room as Dustin Wurtz (33) of Leola-Frederick pursues the play during a football game Saturday afternoon at Dacotah Bank Stadium. Photo by Dawn Sahli

Ipswich scored its second touchdown late in the third quarter on a Kyle Hettich 2-yard run, cutting the Titan lead to 16-12. That would set up the intriguing finale in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers would eventually drive the ball inside the Leola-Frederick 10-yard line, but the Titans’ defense would stiffen and deny Ipswich a score, turning the ball over on downs.

“We just missed It. I think we had a chance. I think we had a catch right there,” Hogie said. “Sometimes you make plays and sometimes we don’t and we just missed a few plays today that would’ve been the difference in the ball game.”

VanTilburg was glad to see his defense step up.

“They looked like they had thrown a pretty good ball and couldn’t come up with it,” VanTilburg said, “so we got the stop and we were able to take over.”

Leola-Frederick was then able to hold off any other Ipswich scoring attempts and preserve the win.

Thorpe said it has been a goal to defeat the Tigers for quite some time as the sophomore had never seen his team beat them.

“I’ve been looking forward to this the entire year,” Thorpe said. “I just wanted to beat this team.”

Casey Geditz (8) of Ipswich tries to tackle Brayden Sumption (2) of Leola-Frederick during this action from Saturday’s Game at Dacotah Bank Stadium. Photo by Dawn Sahli

Thorpe finished with 56 rushing yards on 18 carries and one rushing touchdown. Gavin Nickelson led the Titans with 141 yards on 17 attempts, while Sumption added 90 yards rushing and 60 yards passing.

For Ipswich, Casey Geditz led the Tigers with 41 rushing yards, while Hettich had 38 rushing yards and 64 yards receiving. Trevor Heinz had 62 yards receiving. Kulesa passed for 161 yards.

Despite the loss, Kulesa was thankful for being able to play at Dacotah Bank Stadium.

“It’s a cool experience,” Kulesa said. “It’s awesome.”

Ipswich (3-3) will travel Britton-Hecla on Friday, and Hogie said the key for his team is getting healthy.

“We got to get healthy. I think we got a little banged up today. They were very physical,” Hogie said. “We’ll get ready for Friday night. We’ve got to head up to Britton. It’s been a while since we’ve played them. That’s a big one for us when it comes to the playoffs, so we got to get ourselves strapped up and ready to go.”

Leola-Frederick (4-2) will return home to host Potter County on Friday. VanTilburg says the Titans will look to finish the season strong.

“Just got to finish. Next week we’ve got Potter County and we know we’re going to have a battle there, and then get a bye week before we get Faulkton,” VanTilburg said. “We know how good they are. We saw what they did last night with Warner, so we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go and keep getting better.”

Leola-Frederick (4-2) 8 8 0 0 – 16

Ipswich (3-3) 0 6 6 0 – 12

First Quarter

LF – Levi Little 16 pass from Brayden Sumption (Gavin Nickelson run), 9:18.

Second Quarter

I – Max Kulesa 8 run, 10:34.

LF – Westyn Thorpe 1 run (Sumption run), 2:37.

Third Quarter

I – Kyle Hettich 2 run, 3:00.

OFFENSE: Leola-Frederick, rushing 56-311 (Gavin Nickelson 17-141, Westyn Thorpe 18-56, Brayden Sumption 14-90), passing 4-6-1 for 60 (Sumption 4-6-1 for 60), receiving (Austin Mantei 2-29, Levi Little 1-20, McKinley Kosters 1-18); Ipswich, rushing 18-92 (Casey Geditz 7-41, Kyle Hettich 5-38, Max Kulesa 1-13), passing 7-21-2 for 161 (Kulesa 7-21-2 for 161), receiving (Trevor Heinz 4-62, Hettich 2-64, Jaxon Holt 1-35).

DEFENSE: Leola-Frederick, Nickelson 4 tackles, Noah Kippley 4 tackles and 1 interception, Thorpe 1 interception, Sumption fumble recovery, Milo Sumption 1 sack; Ipswich, Chet Peterson 11 tackles, Geditz 9 tackles, Hettich 9 tackles and 1 forced fumble, Kulesa 1 interception, Brody Davis fumble recovery, Justin Rohrbach fumble recovery.

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