The fourth time was the charm for Hammarskjold Vikings placekicker Mitchell Hannusch.
Hannusch booted a 13-yard field goal Friday night with five seconds on the clock, capturing a 13-10 win over the previously undefeated Churchill Trojans.
The win, coming in the senior boys football regular-season finale, landed the Vikings the No. 1 seed heading into next weekend’s semifinals, where they’ll take on the fourth-place Westgate Tigers. The Trojans, who slipped to 5-1-1, earned a date with the St. Patrick Saints.
Vikings running back Xander Hasell, who cruised for 270 yards and Hammarskjold’s only touchdown, a 30-yard first-quarter dash, said the fantastic finish that led to Hannusch’s winning boot was about as exciting as it comes.
“I’ve never been through anything like that,” he said. “It was absolutely amazing. It was stunning."
And what a play it was.
After Hammarskjold quarterback Alex Nemmec-Bakk and Churchill pivot Jarred White threw back-to-back interceptions, the latter coming from the Vikings 40-yard line with less than a minute to play, the Vikings turned to their bag of tricks, starting on their own 34.
Grade 11 quarterback Keenan Postans was called in to handle the pitch-pass play, and he hurled it down the field where standout receiver Nick Potter hauled it in and raced down the sidelines, knocked out of bounds at the Trojans six-yard line.
“Keenan threw a great ball and Nick went and reeled it in,” Hammarskjold coach Mike Judge said.
Despite a trio of earlier misses that could have given the Vikings the lead – albeit from long distance – Judge said he had no qualms turning the ball over to Hannusch with the game on the line. He was wide right on a 22-yarder late in the third, hit the upright on a 42-yarder in the fourth, then came up short on a desperation 55-yarder a little later in the final stanza.
“I’m sure he’s pretty pleased to seal it. He was disappointed that we got one tipped one in the far end there and then he doinked one off the upright from about 45. But then he got the game-winner and he deserves it because he’s a model kid and a true class teammate.”
Judge said not once did they suggest settling for the tie.
“We talked at halftime about what we wanted to do. All four teams were locked into the playoffs so it was just a matter of who you wanted to play. And the kids wanted to go,” Judge said.
“First or third didn’t really matter to us. Our goal is getting the victories in the playoffs, not winning the regular season standings.”
The Vikings opened up the early lead in the first, a Hannusch field goal making it 10-0 before the first quarter ran down.
But after Kuwah Sha cut into the opposition lead with a field goal of his own, White led the Trojans down the field, hitting receiver Julian Schultz to set up a first-and-10 on the Vikings five. The mobile QB then dashed left for the untouched score with 1:05 to play before the half, tying the game 10-10.
Sha also had a chance at a go-ahead field goal in the fourth, but didn’t have the strength to put it between the uprights from 45 out.
A botched hand-off earlier gave Hammarsjkold the ball in Churchill territory, but Austin Ellis couldn’t haul in a wide-open pass from Nemmec-Bakk in the end zone and Hannusch and the Vikings settled for the unsuccessful field-goal try.
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