It wasn't the start Estherville Lincoln Central was looking for, but the Midgets had their chances against visiting North Union.
The Warriors returned an interception for a touchdown early in the game which proved to be the difference as they left town with a 20-13 victory on Friday.
"We knew the offensive line would be key," said ELC coach Chuck Fandel. "But we also knew their strength was in their linebackers with three returning. We just need to get bodies on bodies. Hopefully, we can make the adjustments by next week."
With coaches and teammates applauding in the background, ELC’s Derek Nieland (3) intercepts a Jake Braddock pass intended for North Union’s Matt Adams (10).
EDN photo by David Swartz
Andreas Blanco was a bright spot for the Midgets as he unofficially rushed for 134 yards on 15 carries including ELC's first touchdown.
Meanwhile North Union, a combination of Armstrong-Ringsted, North Kossuth and Sentral, enjoyed its first 11-man victory.
The Warriors took advantage of ELC's first mistake when Evan Hansen's attempted center-screen pass landed in the arms of Marshall Klingenberg. The Warrior junior returned the ball 17 yards for the first score with 2:39 left in the opening quarter.
Kicker Jannis Lesko added the PAT to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Both teams struggled in the first quarter with neither recording a first down until quarterback Jacob Braddock completed a pass to Garrett Johnson.
The Warriors used that momentum and took the ball inside the 20 on a run by Braddock. On first-and-10 from the 14, Jacob Adams found a hole and burst through for the touchdown. This time Lesko missed the kick, but North Union led 13-0 with 10:46 remaining in the first half.
ELC had tried to run up the middle most of the first quarter, but went to the option on the first series of the second half.
Blanco had two big runs that took the ball to the North Union 21-yard line. However, A fumble on the next play gave the ball back to the Warriors.
Seven plays later, Derek Nieland intercepted a Braddock pass at the Midget 42-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Nieland caught a pass from Hansen to take the ball to the Warrior 29.
Blanco broke free on the ensuing play and scored with 6:12 left in the half. He then converted the PAT as ELC cut the deficit to 13-7.
That was the score at the break.
Neither team could do much offensively for most of the second half.
North Union had a blocked punt deep in ELC territory, but the Midget defense held
Blanco broke free for a couple big runs right before the end of the third quarter, but ELC couldn't continue the drive in the fourth.
Blanco also intercepted a Braddock pass in the fourth quarter.
Braddock also had a fumble with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter, but three plays later, Hansen threw an interception
The North Union offensive line started to get a push on ELC late in the game and Cody Runksmeier broke down the sideline for a 21-yard strike with 1:38 in the game. After the Lesko kick made it 20-7, ELC had one last gasp.
Hansen connected with Matt Burrell on a 68-yard pass on a fourth-and-10 with 1:07 left on the clock.
However, North Union's CJ Cheever swallowed up the onside kick attempt to help seal the Warrior win.
Unofficially, ELC had a total of 110 rushing yards.
Hansen was 9-of-17 passing for 174 yards.
Defensively for the Midgets, Tucker Milburn had 13 tackles, Blanco had 10 and Burrell, Randy Leon and Bryce Hansen each had seven tackles.
North Union used several rushers. Klingenberg finished with 61 yards on 12 carries. Adams had 13 yards on 54 carries. Runksmeier had 53 yards on seven carries. Braddock finished with 35 yards on 15 carries and Ty Anderson had four yards on three carries.
The Warriors rushed the ball 50 times for 207 yards. They had 23 yards passing.
ELC (0-1) travels to Algona next Friday.
North Union hosts Bishop Garrigan for the Warriors' home opener.