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Esko falls to Proctor in section championship

Proctor's John Aase makes a reception late in the fourth quarter as Esko's Dawsen Cossalter attempts to break up the pass. Matthew Moses/ 1 / 2
Esko senior Turner Gregg with a strong run dragged Proctor's Jake Malec several yards before he was ultimately tackled. Matthew Moses/ 2 / 2

Longtime Esko football coach Bill Hudspith has seen it all during his tenure with the Eskomos. But heading into Thursday’s Section 7AAA final against Proctor, he knew what he didn’t want to see.

“We didn’t want to see mistakes and we didn’t want to see penalties,” Hudspith said.

The team then fell behind 21-0 against the Rails and eventually took 12 penalties on the way to a 34-13 loss.

“We just didn’t get into sync the entire game,” Hudspith said. “We never really got going. [Proctor] hit us hard and we didn’t come back.”

Wide receiver Terrance Wenzel scored twice, recovered two Esko fumbles and an onside kick and scored a two-point conversion for the Rails.

A.J. Maas rushed for 106 yards for Proctor, mostly in the second half when the Rails were working the clock, but it was through the air that the Eskomos were hurt the most. Rails quarterback Jake Malec threw for 230 yards and a 62-yard touchdown to Chase Urie on only 10 attempts.

Jaxson Turner, playing in his final game for the Eskomos, had 225 all-purpose yards, including 105 on the ground and seven receptions for 115 yards.

The closest the Eskomos came was early in the second half, when senior Nick Emanuel scored on a 2-yard plunge to cut Proctor’s lead to 21-7. Turner’s touchdown, a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter, made it 28-13 but Esko could get no closer.

“We got inside the 5-yard line early and didn’t get in,” Hudspith said. “They came back and scored. When you have an 80-yard play and a 5-yard penalty bringing it back, that isn’t good. We ended up playing some young kids and that didn’t help. But we thought we could take care of business.”

Hudspith said the Rails were able to exploit some relative inexperience in the Esko interior lines.

“We have some very talented people but we started a few sophomores, too, and when you get to a section final you don’t have the experience,” Hudspith said. “They get nervous and do things which they think are right but which aren’t. That leads to mistakes and you can’t beat solid teams making mistakes.”

Hudspith said the experience will benefit his team in the future.

“A lot of the kids thought preparing for a section final was magical,” he said. “Then they realized it was just a game and you have to block and tackle. At that level everyone has to contribute. You can’t just say ‘we’ll let the seniors pull and we’ll ride.’ Everyone has to chip in on a championship team. They know the high and the low and now the question is what are they going to do about it for next year.”

Hudspith is left to think about what might have been for one of his most talented teams.

“I think this was in the top four or five teams for me in terms of skill,” he said. “But here again, the depth really hurt. When you have seven linemen, they go both ways and you have two sophomores playing both ways, the good teams say ‘we’ll turn this into a physical game and wear them out.’ It’s nothing against those kids but they’ll get better from it.

“The bad thing is that even though you have the victory of being in a championship game and the positive feeling,” Hudspith said, “the end is quick. You remember the good things: Turner’s runs and kickoff returns, kids who caught their first touchdown as a senior after being there for four years and seeing their faces. Those are the things that last a lifetime. It was fun.”