Wheatland-Grinnell Ends Victoria's Season
GRAINFIELD-Issac Mendez rushed for 173 yards and four touchdowns as Wheatland-Grinnell advanced to its first Football State Championship game in school history with a 42-30 victory over Victoria Friday evening in the 8-Man Division ll Semifinals.
The fourth-ranked Thunderhawks won the opening coin toss and needed just two plays to register their first score of the night on a 51-yard run by Mendez for a 6-0 lead after the failed two-point conversion. #3 Victoria though answered right back, tying the score 6-6 on a 10-yard run by Grant Schoenrock, but the two-point play for the conversion was no good.
One minute later, Wheatland-Grinnell took the lead and never relinquished it, tallying a 32-yard run by Quarterback Trey Vincent. A pass interference penalty the play before set the Thunderhawks up in Knight territory. The two-point try was good and the lead was extended to 14-6.
The Knights came back again with a three-play 50-yard drive culminating in a 13-yard scoring pass from Quarterback Thaddeus Wohler to Taylor Anderson but Victoria could not add the conversion and the deficit stood at 14-12. Wheatland-Grinnell then extended the lead to 20-12 when Mendez completed a two-play 48-yard drive with a 34-yard run.
Victoria kept the game close by intercepting Vincent three times in the second quarter, but the Knights were only able to turn one of those Thunderhawk miscues into points. Wohler scored on a nine-yard run but after another missed conversion, following a successful conversion that was called back due to a holding penalty, the Wheatland-Grinnell lead stood at 20-18. A key moment in the game occurred on the Thunderhawks' next drive when on fourth down and 10 yards to go, Vincent connected with younger brother Jett Vincent on a 30-yard touchdown pass and the two-point conversion made the score 28-18 Wheatland-Grinnell at intermission.
Wheatland-Grinnell was assessed a personal foul penalty at the end of the first half following an interception by Landon Schmidtberger which afforded the Knights excellent field position on the second half kickoff. Victoria drove 43 yards in six plays and capped off the series with a one-yard run by Wohler but another missed conversion left the score at 28-24. Wheatland-Grinnell then scored touchdowns on their next two possessions to put the game on ice.
Mendez concluded a seven-play 44-yard drive with a five-yard run to make the score 34-24 after the two-point try was no good and then following a Victoria punt late in the third quarter, the Thunderhawks traveled 71-yards on 16 plays on a drive that took up more than half the fourth quarter and Mendez finished it with a seven-yard run and the two-point conversion was true, making the score 42-24 in favor of the home team.
Victoria scored in the game's final minute on a two-yard pass from Wohler to Seth Schwien but the deficit was too much to overcome as the Knights saw their eight-game winning steak and their season come to an end.
Schoenrock was Victoria's leading rusher with 99 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown and Wohler ran for 57 yards on 15 carries with two scores. Carson Werth who had scored 14 touchdowns in Victoria's first three playoff games was kept out of the end zone by Wheatland-Grinnell and held to 56 yards on the ground after eclipsing 200 yards in two of his three previous outings.
Wheatland-Grinnell (11-1) will face Axtell in the 8-Man Division ll State Championship game on November 27 at 3 p.m. at Fisher Field in Newton. The Eagles rocked Thunder Ridge 46-0 in Friday's other D-ll Semifinal. The Thunderhawks have won 11 consecutive games since Axtell beat them in the season opener on September 3, 62-16.
Victoria (10-2) lost in the Sub-State Championship game for the second consecutive year. St. Francis defeated the Knights 44-22 on November 20, 2020 in Victoria. Friday's game was the final one in a Knights uniform for seniors Schoenrock, Isaiah Aguilar, Nate Windholz and Grant Hammerschmidt.