Trojans edge Wingers for 1st win

The New Prague Trojan football team celebrated after their win over Red Wing Friday, Oct. 11. The team will enter the Section 2AAAAA playoffs Tuesday, Oct. 22, with opponent and site to be determined following games on Wednesday evening, Oct. 16, after this edition of The Times went to press. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

The New Prague Trojan football team got the proverbial monkey off their backs Friday, Oct. 11, with an exciting 14-13 win over Red Wing.

            The Trojans were playing in front of a crowd that included more than 250 football alumni from as far back as the 1950s who were on hand for a reunion, as well as a large, spirited student section, and the Trojans gave the home crowd some things to cheer about.

            Senior Nathan Zweber sparked the Trojans to the win. Zweber rushed for 153 yards on 20 carries. He scored both touchdowns, on a 4-yard run in the second quarter and on a 95-yard interception return in the third.

            The two teams traded punts through the first four possessions as they jockeyed for good field position. New Prague got the ball into Winger territory late in the first quarter before turning the ball over on downs.

            Red Wing couldn’t move the ball though and punted. New Prague took over near midfield. They drove downfield, with JT Butler catching a pass from Ty Johnson and being run out of bounds at the Red Wing 4-yard line. Zweber got his first touchdown on the next play, and Jake Klein’s kick put the Trojans’ up 7-0 with 5:48 left in the first half.

            On the Wingers’ next drive, Zach LaFavor forced a fumble that was recovered by the Trojans at midfield with under a minute left. New Prague tried to take advantage, but Red Wing intercepted a pass and returned it 50- yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

            The Wingers’ momentum carried over into the second half, as they took the second half kick and marched downfield, looking for a go-ahead score. But the Trojans’ Peter Molitor forced another fumble that New Prague recovered at their own 9-yard line.

            New Prague ended up punting, giving the Wingers good field position at midfield. They again drove into the red zone, and again turned the ball over. Zweber stepped in front of a pass near the sideline at the Trojan 5-yard line and ran a tightrope along the sidelines, going 95 yards for the score. Klein’s kick made it 14-7 Trojans with 3:04 left in the third quarter.

            Red Wing did not roll over though. The Wingers drove downfield and scored with 1:32 left in the third quarter. The point after kick was wide left, though, and the Trojans still held the lead at 14-13.

            New Prague again moved the ball downfield, but a Johnson pass was picked off in the end zone.

            Red Wing’s next drive was stopped near midfield when on fourth-and-7, the Wingers completed a short pass and the Trojans’ Joe Heinz dropped the receiver just short of the first down marker.

            Red Wing would have one more chance, but the Trojans’ pass rush took over, with Mitch Gullickson and Alex McHugh getting sacks in the final minutes. New Prague got possession of the ball with less than a minute left and knelt with the ball to secure the win.

            “It was a nice way for our seniors to go out in their last home game,” said Coach Jim Benick after the game. “Nathan Zweber made some big plays, and the rest of the squad followed his lead, coming up with big plays at big times,” he said.

            “The defense did a nice job tonight,” Benick added. “I’m proud of the guys. They kept fighting and they deserved this win.”

            New Prague had 237 yards of total offense, compared to 226 for the Wingers. The Trojans had 183 yard rushing, with Zweber having 153 yards on 28 carries, Butler had 16 yards on four carries, Ben Buthe 13 yards on seven carries and Johnson 1 yard on one carry. It was the most productive rushing night of the season for New Prague.

            Johnson was 5-of-11 passing for 54 yards. Butler caught three passes for 44 yards and Klein caught two balls for 10 yards.

            Defensively Buthe led the Trojans with seven tackles, while McHugh and Logan Dykstra had 6.5 each. Molitor had 5.5 and Gullickson and Kyle Rookaird had five each.

            New Prague had four sacks, with Gullickson getting 2.5, Molitor one and McHugh a half-sack. The Trojans had seven tackles for loss, with Gullickson having 2.5, James Fuerniss two, McHugh 1.5 and Molitor one.

            New Prague (1-6, 1-5 Missota), was scheduled to close out its final Missota Conference game Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Chaska. The Hawks (6-0, 7-0) have already clinched at least a tie for the final Missota Conference title. The conference will be breaking up after the current school year, with Chaska  moving to the new Metro West Conference and New Prague going to the Wright County Conference.

            New Prague will begin the Section 2AAAAA playoffs Tuesday, Oct. 22, most likely on the road. They expect to be either the fifth or sixth seed. Possible opponents are Northfield, Chanhassen and Mankato West, pending results of Wednesday’s games. Pairings will be posted on newpraguetimes.com after they are announced.