For the second year in a row the West Central Trojans and the Dell Rapids Quarriers met in the quarterfinals of the 11A playoffs. Last year the Trojans traveled to Dell Rapids, but this year, the Trojans hosted the Quarriers on Thursday, October 29th.
Derek Eidsness hit the game-winning field goal in 2019 with a second left on the clock to help advance the Trojans to the semifinals. It was another late score for West Central that gave the Trojans a 16-14 win over Dell Rapids and send them to semifinals again this year.
West Central defeated the Quarriers 34-0 less than two weeks ago on October 16th, but the Trojans didn’t plan on this game being anything like the one earlier this year.
“We knew it was not going to be like the first time we played Dells. They are such a well-coached team, and their kids play so hard all the time. I have nothing but respect for their players, coaches, and program,” said head coach Vincent Benedetto.
The Trojans electrified the home crowd on the opening drive of the game. After getting the kickoff to start the game, West Central was in the endzone two plays later. Justin Zirpel had a 49-yard run, and Ryan Healy followed with a 19-yard touchdown run to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead just thirty-eight seconds into the game. The offense didn’t come quite as easily the rest of the game. After Dell Rapids tied the game with 3:03 to play in the second quarter, the Trojans were able to get a scoring drive together prior to halftime. Eidsness made a 20-yard field goal with :09 to go in the second quarter to give the Trojans a 10-7 lead heading into halftime.
Dell Rapids seemed to find some momentum in the second half. The Quarriers got the ball to start the third quarter and had an almost seven-minute opening drive that resulted in touchdown to give them a 14-10 lead. Both defenses continued to play strong in the second half, but the Quarriers looked to be making a move in the fourth quarter. They had the ball on the Trojan 40 yard-line with just over eight minutes to go in the game after a big run by Landon Ruesink. The Trojan defense, however, did not break. West Central was able to force a turnover on downs and took possession with 7:24 to play in the game.
“It was battle against a really good opponent. When we needed to, we made plays. We had not made those plays in previous games this season in our close losses to Dakota Valley and Canton,” said Benedetto.
The Trojan offense put together a 10-play, 66-yard drive that lasted five minutes and thirty-five seconds. Zirpel scored on a quarterback sneak from the Quarrier one-yard line with 1:49 to play. The extra point was no good, but West Central regained the lead 16-14. The last drive by the Quarriers was another turnover on downs as the West Central defense held strong for the win.
“This win is a testament to the character of our players- the hard work they put in during the off-season and season showed on the field tonight. I am very proud to be a part of this team, we have a special group of kids,” added Benedetto.
The two teams ended with nearly identical stats for the game. West Central had 231 yards of total offense, while the Quarriers had 227 yards. Neither team had a turnover in the game. Both teams punted four times, committed three penalties, had 11 first downs, and finished with a sack.
Zirpel had 20 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown in the game. Healy finished with 14 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown. Healy and Carter Sandholm both had eight tackles in the game. Brayden Traub-Jensen and Logan Maras both finished with seven tackles each.
West Central (6-4) will travel to play Canton in the semifinals on Friday, November 6th with a trip to the championship game on the line.