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Road Warriors

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At times this season, the Esko football team’s worst enemies have been wearing their own colors. On Tuesday night, the Eskomos overcame those enemies — on and off their own sidelines — earning a 20-14 Section 7AAA first-round playoff win in Virginia.

The Eskomos (2-7) have been plagued all season by mistakes and errors, but showed flashes of their great potential in defeating the Blue Devils (3-6) at Ewens Field.

Esko scored on its first two possessions — through an 11-yard run by quarterback Stone DeLeon and a 16-yard strike from DeLeon to Ben Fischer — for a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.

“We scored on our first two drives and then not again until the very last one,” said first-year Esko head coach Scott Arntson. “It looked like we were playing pretty well, but then penalties and turnovers made it tough to consistently sustain drives.”

Esko, which lost 24-21 to Virginia on the same field just the preceding Friday, had enough in the tank to survive a Blue Devils rally.

A short third-quarter touchdown run by Virginia’s Andrew Wilcox and a fourth-quarter score by Cody Herrmann tied the game at 14-14 with 5:17 to play before the Eskomos got the ball back. A long kickoff return and a personal foul penalty on the Blue Devils gave Esko the ball with a short field, and the Eskomos drove that field to win the game.

Running back Dawsen Cossalter used most of the field’s width to score on a weaving 5-yard touchdown run with 1:47 left for the final margin.

Arntson noted some of the issues that have plagued his team throughout the season showed up on Tuesday night, but the players overcame them.

“We had a hard time getting out of our own way,” he said. “We hope those things are correctable, but penalties and turnovers have been our own worst enemy on the offensive side of the ball.”

“Anything you can name, we had it,” he added. “Offside, holding, unsportsmanlike conduct — these are discipline things we will correct. But we overcame them and I’m proud of the kids for that.”

There were plenty of bright spots as well.

“Defensively we held them to two touchdowns,” he said. “When we’re clicking on offense, we get the ball to a lot of different people and we’re balanced. When we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we look pretty good.”

The win sets up a rematch of last season’s section finals — against top-seeded Proctor (7-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Proctor.

“We have a different team from last year and so do they,” Arntson said. “We were senior-heavy last year, but they (Proctor) are big and good. They are the No. 1 seed for a reason. (Coach Derek) Parendo has them well prepared and they’ll be tough to beat.”

Arntson said the plan for Saturday is simple.

“We’ll try to let our athletes get their hands on the ball in space and see if we can move it against them,” he said. “We as coaches have the same conversation all the time — we show flashes, but we haven’t put it together for an entire game.”

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