Postseason clinching win
WAYLAND — With the winner of Highland and WACO football game advancing to the postseason, the Warriors couldn’t have asked for a better start in a 45-27 win.
Just 14 seconds into the game, on the first play, sophomore Bryce Achen broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run. He finished the day with 224 yards and a 20.4 average.
“It started out really good,” Achen said. “We had some nice blocking upfront that opened up some holes. It was easy for me from there.”
The Warriors followed that up by scoring on their next three possessions for a 27-0 lead with 10:40 remaining in the half.
“We have the capability of doing that,” said WACO head coach Chad Edeker. “This group gets up for big games. We did a great job moving the ball, right from the first play.”
Senior Isaac Black pulled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Braden Blake, just less than five minutes after the first score that was set up by a 29-yard punt return from Achen to the Highland 37.
“I didn’t think I was going to have a good return when I first got it,” Achen. “I turned it around and got some blocking up the backside. It set us up pretty good.”
Senior Cey Saeugling had a 15-yard touchdown carry four minutes later.
Saeugling completed a seven-play drive with a score from 9 yards out.
Despite taking over the ball with its best field position of the night on Highland’s 29, WACO failed to score.
After the Huskies went three-and-out, senior Dylon Carlson capped off a 5-play drive with a 7-yard carry into the end zone with 4:55 left in the half.
Black came up with an interception to give WACO the ball back.
Seven plays later, Saeugling caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Blake for Saeugling’s third touchdown of the night to make it 39-0 at the half. There was a continuous clock in the closing half.
Achen set up the first score of the second half with a 38-yard run. Junior Tucker Janecek finished off the drive with a 22-yard touchdown carry with 6:48 left in the third quarter. He had 145 yards for the game and a 10.4 average.
From there, WACO’s second team took the field after a 45-0 lead.
“We came in thinking it was going to be a pretty tough game,” Achen said. “We played hard for awhile and got up.”
The Warriors had 23 first downs — 20 rushing — to 10 from Highland.
WACO had 249 more rushing yards than the Huskies.
“I thought we played really well,” Edeker said. “They put a lot of points on the board. Our defense played really well. We held them out until late third quarter. Offensively we played really well.”
The Huskies showed they still had some fight in them against the reserves.
It scored 27 unanswered points after getting on the board for the first time with a fumble recovery in the end zone by junior Lane Welsh with 3:42 to go in the third quarter.
After Highland cut the lead to 18 points, Edeker was prompted to bring back his first-string defense.
“Our JV looked very disoriented because they didn’t get any reps in practice this week,” Edeker said. “I didn’t think they would be in this game.”
Huskies’ junior running back Brian Garcia had two scores of 17 and 37 yards.
Highland sophomore Nick Sandburg found the end zone from 33 yards out.
With the loss, Highland is eliminated from postseason contention and finishes 4-5.
“You never want to finish your season not making the playoffs,” said Highland head coach Tony Johnson. “WACO was definitely the better team tonight. They controlled the line of scrimmage, making it hard for us to do anything defensively or offensively.”
The seniors were rewarded with a win on Senior Night.
“All seniors came out and played hard,” Achen said. “That really helped bring home the win.”
In the process of clinching a postseason berth, WACO also played its way into a No. 2 seed and will host a first-round game.
“It is really exciting to be second in conference,” Achen said. “It really makes a difference playing here with our home fans. We are really pumped to play here.”
WACO will play Lynnville-Sully Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“Our varsity is starting to play well,” Edeker said. “That is what we need going into the playoffs.”