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Chaska Spoils Homecoming in Late Rally

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Chaska celebrates its first touchdown in a win over Apple Valley in AVHS' homecoming game.

Chaska celebrates its first touchdown in a win over Apple Valley in AVHS' homecoming game.

Brady LaBahn

Brady LaBahn

Chaska celebrates its first touchdown in a win over Apple Valley in AVHS' homecoming game.

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The Chaska Hawks ended the Eagles’ bid for an undefeated season–on homecoming, no less– in a 20-17 come from behind victory on Friday.

Chaska’s first scoring drive was set up by a failed fake punt by Apple Valley that gave the Hawks the ball deep into the Eagles’ territory in the first quarter. A 9-yard touchdown pass from CHS senior quarterback Connor Souba to junior wide receiver Justin Bach gave Chaska an early lead.

Chaska quarterback Connor Souba throws a pass in the first quarter.

However, the Apple Valley defense quickly regained its footing and held Chaska scoreless until the fourth quarter. A 42-yard dash by senior running back Patrick Kelehan at the end of the first quarter set up a two yard touchdown dive by senior Kellen McKeag. Although McKeag often gets the most attention from outside the team, quarterback’s coach Dalen Dirth praised Kelehan saying; “[Patrick]’s a great player. He plays multiple positions on our field […] he’s got the quickness, he’s got the toughness. He’s just someone we can constantly count on.”  After an offside call on the extra point, the Eagles converted on the two point try, putting them up 8-7.

Later in the quarter, a promising Chaska drive was stalled when a poor snap resulted in Apple Valley linebacker Chris Antholz falling on a fumble, giving the Eagles the ball back. However, Apple Valley’s own drive ended in a turnover on downs. Dirth described the offense’s in-game changes saying, “We struggled a little bit with our base stuff, so we had to make some adjustments at halftime, and once we made those adjustments we were gashing them a little bit.”

The Eagles got the ball back with 3:31 left in the second quarter, and the final drive of the first half resulted in sophomore kicker Bilhal Kone nailing a field goal with just over a second left on the clock.

Brady LaBahn
Sophomore Bilhal Kone delivers the opening kickoff during Friday night’s loss to Chaska.

Apple Valley struggled coming out of the locker room, as a fumble by senior quarterback Tyler Cardella resulted in a 30 yard return by Chaska, giving the Hawks stellar field position. But they failed to convert, as Apple Valley junior Damian Swanson intercepted Souba’s pass in the end zone, ending Chaska’s drive.

AVHS’ next drive appeared promising, as backfield duo McKeag and Kelehan ran for three consecutive 15+ yard runs, getting the Eagles all the way to the goal line. However a fumble by Cardella on a fourth and goal QB sneak from the one-yard line ending up stalling the drive. “When we got down on the goal line […] we left two scores out there,[…] and didn’t end up finishing,” explained Dirth.

After taking over on their own one yard line, Chaska drove down the field after a holding penalty against the Eagles gave the Hawks a first down on the 10. Chaska senior running back Kobe Lillo completed the 99-yard scoring campaign with a three yard touchdown run, giving the Hawks a 13-11 lead.

However, Apple Valley immediately responded, as Cardella used both his legs and his arm to push the Eagles down the field, capping the drive with a three yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Luke Martens. After a failed 2 point conversion, Apple Valley held on to a 17-13 lead with under 9:00 to go.

Brady LaBahn
Senior Tyler Cardella launches a ball downfield during the first half.

The Eagle defense produced under pressure on the ensuing CHS drive, as senior linebacker Justin Firpo fell on a fumble with 6:42 remaining.

After a short drive by Apple Valley, Chaska got the ball back down by only four points with 2:09 on the clock. A key conversion on 4th and 10 allowed the Hawks to continue their comeback bid, and a 36 yard strike with 49.8 seconds left brought Chaska to the Apple Valley’s three yard line. The next play resulted in a touchdown by Lillo, and the extra point made gave the Hawks a 20-17 lead.

Apple Valley was unable to do much in their final drive, and Chaska was able to keep their own undefeated season alive, improving to 5-0. Ultimately, the team as a whole looked to learn from the loss and keep working towards the end goal of a state championship. Coach Dirth summed it up by saying, “We feel good about next week. One of our takeaways from this game is we’ve got to learn more from losing than we would from winning […] The rest of the season we feel pretty good, we knew this was going to be a strong competition, and it was, it was a great game.”

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Chaska Spoils Homecoming in Late Rally