Area Football: Knights hold off Pillager late to win Subdistrict

Pillager's Parker Schaefer (8) breaks up a pass to West Central Area's Torin Olson Friday, Nov. 6, at Pillager High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

PILLAGER — After a tennis-match type first half, the Midwest Blue Subdistrict contest between the Pillager Huskies and West Central Knights came down to one drive Friday, Nov. 6.

Tied 20-20 coming out of halftime, West Central received the kickoff and matched 80 yards on seven plays to post a 28-20 edge. And that’s how it ended as the Knights kept Pillager out of the end zone the rest of the game to improve to 4-2 and win the subdistrict.

“That was a huge drive, especially after we were denied to end the first half,” Knights head coach Nate Wood said. “To then be able to come out and punch it in really set the tone for the half and helped us bounce back from that momentum they gained to end the first half.”

The big play on the first drive of the second came from senior Jordan Lohse, who took a counter handoff and ripped off a 58-yard run. Five plays later, Lohse scored the game-winning TD. He finished with 111 yards rushing on just nine carries and caught two passes for 41 yards.

Pillager had chances to tie the score. Early in the fourth quarter on fourth down and 6, quarterback Blake Clark rumbled for 5 1/2 yards. Pillager turned the ball over on downs, but forced West Central into a third and 13 on their own 1-yard line. An 8-yard run on the next play gave the Knights enough space to punt.


“I really didn’t want to give up a safety because then that gave them the chance to win it,” Wood said. “We were pretty conservative and really just wanted to get a little space and then punt the ball out of there. Then Jaden (Norby) boomed the ball and that really helped a lot, too.”

Facing a fourth and 10 on their own 45, Pillager punted as time was winding down. Pillager head coach Paul Peterson said he may second guess the decision after watching the game film, but felt his defense could stop West Central. It didn’t as Norby, who will be playing tight end next year at the University of North Dakota, connected with Lohse for a 9-yard pass on third and 5 to extend West Central’s final drive and end the game.

“A lot of these kids have played a lot of football, but they haven’t played a lot of football where they are the guy,” Peterson said. “Now, they’re the guy; like Griffin Decker. He made some big plays. Blake (Clark) made some great throws late and avoided their pressure. They were coming really hard and they’re a good football team, but we had our chances. It was disappointing that we didn’t capitalize when we needed to.

“But they’re a good football team. I would love to see them again and we might.”

There could be a rematch between these two teams in the Section 6-2A playoffs. But Pillager will have to find a way to stop the Knights, who gained 357 yards and held Pillager to 185 yards.

“We didn’t really make any adjustments, but our kids were just adjusted to how they were being blocked and what they needed to do,” Wood said. “It’s really hard to replicate that double-tight, double-wing power offense that they run. Once our kids figured out how to get off blocks they really executed a lot better.”


In the high-scoring opening half, Pillager fumbled on its first play from scrimmage to start the game. Three plays later Norby scored from a yard out.

“It was big plays from both teams that really swung momentum back and forth,” Wood said. “That made it a really stressful game as a coach. I know their coaches were stressed out, too, but it was a heck of a good football game.”

Pillager answered with a 12-play, 70-yard drive capped by Quintin Laveau’s 21-yard touchdown catch from Clark.

“Against Crookston, I believe we fumbled seven times and lost six and we still won the game,” Peterson said. “We changed the ball and we have a different ball and we work on ball security all the time, but that first fumble really hurt us. It was not a great start.”
West Central clicked off a 9-play 67-yard drive to answer and grab a 12-6 lead after the first quarter.

Pillager was forced to punt on its next possession, but two plays later senior Hunter Gjovik gobbled up a loose ball and sprinted 35 yards the other direction for a 12-12 game.

On the kickoff, Jacob Dixon picked up a loose ball out of the air and returned it to the West Central 1. Griffin Decker scored a play later and added the two-point conversion for a 20-12 Pillager lead.

The Knights once again answered on their next possession. An Evan Paulson to Norby 39-yard pass highlighted a seven-play drive that ended with Anthony Sykora scoring from 3 yards out to tie the score.
“Overall, I’m happy with how we played,” Peterson said. “But I’m not happy we lost. That’s the thing. They just came out aggressive to start that second half and we weren’t on our heels, but they just called some good plays and made some good runs and they made some plays and that was the difference in the game.”


West Central 12 8 8 0 -- 28
Pillager 6 12 0 0 -- 20

First quarter
WC-Jaden Norby 1 run (pass failed) 10:22
Pill-Quintin Laveau 21 pass from Blake Clark (run failed) 4:42
WC-Norby 5 run (run failed) 49.8

Second quarter
Pill-Hunter Gjovik 35 fumble return (run failed) 8:33
Pill-Griffin Decker 1 run (Decker run) 8:15
WC-Anthony Sykora 3 run (Sykora run) 5:50

Third quarter
WC-Jordan Lohse 10 run (Torin Olson pass from Evan Paulson) 8:40


Team statistics
Rushes-yards: Pill 31-91, WC 41-224
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Pill 6-11-0-94, WC 6-12-1-133
Total offense: Pill 42-185, WC 53-357

Individual leaders
Rushing: Pill-Griffin Decker 20-77, Quintin Laveau 5-11, Hunter Gjovik 3-3, Blake Clark 2-0, Team 1-0; WC-Jordan Loshe 9-111, Jaden Norby 14-51, Anthony Sykora 17-63
Passing: Pill-Clark 5-10-69, Decker 1-1-25; WC-Evan Paulson 2-6-58, Norby 4-6-75
Receiving: Pill-AJ Gratke 2-43, Laveau 1-21, Gjovik 2-20, Cole Hiltner 1-10; WC-Norby 2-58, Lohse 2-41, Tate Christenson 1-19, Cole Anderson 1-10

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

West Central 28, Pillager 20

Key: West Central takes its opening drive of the second half and breaks a 20-20 tie.


Subdistrict: Pill 1-2, WC 3-0.

Overall: Pill 2-3, WC 4-2.

Next: Pillager at Roseau 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11.

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