Indians showed fight, but turnovers costly.

The Sleepy Eye Indians football team got their season underway Thursday night, Aug. 30 vs the defending Class A State Champion Minneota Vikings. The Vikings came into Sleepy Eye along with their State Title, with an average of 50.6 points per game last season. However, despite Minneota losing their starting QB and RB tandem from last season to graduation, Head Coach Cory Haala knew they would still be a very tough team to beat. “They are a good team, they will make some plays, we have to keep our focus and not get rattled.” Coach Haala also was anticipating the team that limits turnovers and penalties would most likely come out on top.

After starting lineups commenced, the Indians would kick-off towards the end zone and Minneota marched down the field with a drive that lasted just over seven minutes that included four first downs. Ethan Fischer deflected a pass on third-down, forcing a fourth down for the Vikings. Senior Jacob Berg found a hole through the offensive line and slammed quarterback Jacob Hennen to the ground and the Indians took over at their own 17-yard line.

Sophomore Kegan Heiderscheidt converted a huge third-down play to Senior Blake Tauer for a gain of 18 yards for a first down and the Indians were in business at the Vikings 27-yard line. With a combination of runs from Berg and Landon Strong, the Indians found themselves in fourth and goal situation at the two-yard line when Heiderscheidt drew the defense offsides, inching the Indians closer to the goal line. Next play, Heiderscheidt turned around and handed it off to Strong who punched it in for the score and the MSU-Mankato commit put the Indians up 6-0 while Berg ran in the two-point conversion untouched and the Indians were on top of the defending State champion Vikings 8-0 in the second quarter with 8:49 remaining in the first half.

The Indians would go three and out and the Vikings used two large pass gains on a 75-yard drive that set themselves up near the end zone. The Vikings would punch it in and convert the two-point conversion, tying the game 8-8 with just over three minutes remaining in the first half.

The Indians took over once again and got a huge run on an end around by Nathan Walter for a gain of 44-yards, but it was called back, putting a halt to any momentum the Indians could have used up. Minneota then took over after a punt from Frankie Trevino at the Indians 41-yard line with :56 seconds remaining in the first half. QB Jacob Hennen marched his team down the field, however as they inched towards the endzone, Hennen double clutched and Blake Tauer and Rafa Martinez combined for a sack on fourth down. The Indians failed to get any points on the board on their final drive and we went to halftime tied up.

The Indians opened the second half failing to get a first down on the opening drive after Minneota attempted to catch Sleepy Eye on a squib kick. Frankie Trevino had a booming punt that bounced inside the 10-yard line, however it reached the endzone and the Vikings took over at their own 20-yard line. Tauer once again came up huge for the Indians defensively and sacked Hennen in the backfield for a big loss, forcing the Vikings to punt. The Indians looked to take advantage at the Vikings 37-yard line, however a Heiderscheidt pass deflected off a receiver’s hands and Minneota took over on an interception. A holding penalty then set the Vikings up at the Indians 45-yard line, a false start on the Vikings pushed them back to midfield. On first and 25, Jacob Hennen found his brother, WR Thomas Hennen for a 50-yard TD on a beautiful pass down the far sideline for six. The Vikings converted the two-point conversion, putting them up 16-8.

The Indians failed to get much going in the second half until Strong once again came up big for his team on the offensive side of the ball, taking a sweep play for a gain of 54 yards down the right sideline. However, the next play the Indians fumbled the ball and Minneota recovered it. The Indians would get another chance with 3:28 remaining in the game when a Minneota fumble bounced out of bounds in the endzone, setting the Indians up at their own 20-yard line. With 2:36 remaining, the Minneota defense plucked a pass out of the air, intercepting the ball and taking the wind out of Sleepy Eye’s sails.
Minneota, after losing starting QB Jacob Hennen to a broken wrist, then transitioned over to the “Wildcat” offense with RB Cole Sanow, and took one in for the final score, making it 23-8 with just over two minutes left.

Minneota outgained the Indians offensively with 368 yards of total offense, 212 of those coming on the ground. Sleepy Eye gained 223 yards with 154 yards being on the ground. Despite the loss, Coach Haala made it a point he was proud of the team’s effort and they should have much to look forward to as the season goes on.

Next up for Sleepy Eye, the Indians will travel to New Ulm at Johnson Field for a battle with Greyhounds from New Ulm Cathedral at 7 p.m. on Sept. 7. Pick up next week’s edition of the Herald-Dispatch for a game recap, individual stats and a preview of the upcoming game with the Greyhounds.