Football bids farewell to seniors after humbling season

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photo Natalie Droeske

The Duhawks experienced a tough end to their season with back-to-back losses on senior day and their final game of the season. First, the team faced crosstown rival, University of Dubuque, at home on senior day.

In the first quarter, it looked very promising that the Duhawks might be able to pull off the unthinkable. It was cut short when the Spartans scored four touchdowns in the second quarter to make the half-time score 43-15. The Spartans won the Key City Clash for the sixth year in a row to bring the overall record to 28-11, with the Duhawks in the lead. After a devastating 60-22 loss to the Spartans, they fought through the emotions of the final week of football and were ready to tackle their next opponent.

On Saturday, the Duhawks traveled to Lincoln, NE, to take on the newcomer to the Iowa Conference, Nebraska Wesleyan. The game was not what the Duhawks expected. In the first quarter, the Prairie Wolves managed to shut down the Duhawks’ offense and sacked junior quarterback Bob Kelly on a 4th-and-9 attempt. Following that possession, the Prairie Wolves kicked a field goal to get the first points on the board.

The Prairie Wolves scored 24 unanswered points before the Duhawks got on the board late into the second quarter with a two-yard run from junior Mikey Castoro. This left the Duhawks trailing 24-7 at the half.

The Duhawks came out in the third quarter ready to play. After giving up a touchdown to the Prairie Wolves at the start of the half, Loras scored two touchdowns. The first came from an 8-yard pass from Kelly to junior Jonathan O’Brien. The next touchdown came from senior Zach Minch with a four-yard run after senior Jeremy Peters had a punt that was muffed on the Prairie Wolves side of the field.

The looks of a comeback were in the crosshairs. The Duhawks trailed the Prairie Wolves 37-21 at the start of the fourth quarter. Minch had a 76-yard touchdown that made the Duhawks’ chances even brighter of coming back for the win. Just when the Duhawks were about to score again, they fumbled, and the Prairie Wolves picked it up for an 85-yard recovery touchdown.

As soon as the Duhawks got back on offense, Kelly was intercepted for a pick-6. The Duhawks fell to the Prairie Wolves 51-27. Loras had six turnovers that really changed the outcome of the game, whereas the Prairie Wolves only had two turnovers.

Head Coach Steve Helminiak thought Saturday was good representation of what happened this season: turnovers and mistakes.

“I felt the game was a microcosm of our season – turnovers and critical mistakes. That is how our season went overall. We turned the ball over too much and made too many critical errors that resulted in scores or big plays,” said Helminiak.

There are many areas the Duhawks can grow in this off-season, but discipline and execution are the most important.

“Each member of this program needs to take ownership in doing things the right way,” said Coach Helminiak.

But there is a lot of room for future growth in the other classes.

“I am extremely encouraged by the players returning and for our freshman class to grow,” Helminiak continued. “We have many good players returning and am excited about their potential. Moving forward, the Duhawks need to become a discipline team that takes advantage of opportunities throughout the course of a game.”

Coach Helminiak said with this graduating class, two big players will be greatly missed.

“Two names immediately come to mind – Cal Harridge and Zach Minch. Cal amassed over 400 tackles in his career and Zach was a back-to-back 1,000 yard rusher with big-play ability. Jon Powers and Joe Pagura also come to mind – Jon had a break-out senior season and Joe was a very steady player and leader,” Helminiak concluded.

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