The 2019 football season came to an end for the Hastings Raiders on Saturday, Oct. 26, in Apple Valley as they fell to the Eagles 37-6 in the second round of the Section 3AAAAA playoffs. Saturday’s game against Apple Valley was eerily reminiscent of their meeting at the end of the regular season as Raider miscues and mistakes lead to short fields and points for the Eagles. In the two games, Hastings was outscored 82-13. The loss came just days after the Raiders rolled over the Henry Sibley Warriors 28-0 in the first round at Todd Field.

Perhaps the lone highlight Saturday was senior running back Devon McSorley going over 1,000 yards rushing this season. He finished 2019 with 1,047 yards and 8 touchdowns on 196 carries with an average of over 5 yards a carry. He also had 3 receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown and 14 kick returns for 346 yards and touchdown. In total, he had 1,448 total yards and 10 touchdowns.

Hastings had a 3-5 regular season record in 2019 and after going 1-1 in sections, finished 4-6 overall after going 8-2 in 2018.

Struggles in Apple Valley

Things started to go wrong almost right from the start for Hastings. The Raiders punted on their first possession but then forced the Eagles to punt as well. However, Hastings muffed the punt and Apple Valley recovered at the Raider 30-yard line which set up a 28-yard touchdown run by Bilhal Kone, who Hastings could not stop in the first game and that did not change in their second meeting. Kone made the extra point and Apple Valley led 7-0 with 5 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first quarter.

On their next possession, the Raiders managed one first down before punting again. Eagle running back Tony Anger proceeded to break a 22-yard run before the end of the first quarter. After the second quarter started, Hastings forced Apple Valley into a fourth-and-16 but the Eagles faked the punt and Kone went 20 yards for a first down. Later in the drive, he pulled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Noah Halmar and Apple Valley led 14-0 with 9:40 left in the first half.

Hastings’ next drive ended after a drop on a slant that would have gone a long way, maybe even for a touchdown, but the Raider defense forced a punt to get the ball back. The Raiders then strung together their first significant drive of the game, highlighted by a fake punt and first down by senior Colby Zak and a 25-yard scramble by senior quarterback Dylan Wagner. However, Wagner was intercepted by Anger deep in Apple Valley territory and returned 57 yards, which set up a 32-yard field goal by Kone as time expired in the first half and Hastings trailed 17-0.

Things really snowballed in the third quarter as Apple Valley scored 20 more points. They started with the ball in the second half and just a couple plays in they hit on a 73-yard touchdown pass and led 24-0 just 1:25 into the third quarter. Hastings punted on their first possession of the second half but then forced the Eagles to as well, however the Raiders muffed their second punt of the game which was recovered by Apple Valley at the Hastings 8. Anger proceeded to score on the ground and Apple Valley led 30-0 after a missed extra point with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter.

Senior tight end Izzy Arnold had Hastings' lone touchdown against Apple Valley in their 37-6 sections loss on Saturday, Oct. 26, at Apple Valley. Here he returns an interception against South St. Paul. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior tight end Izzy Arnold had Hastings' lone touchdown against Apple Valley in their 37-6 sections loss on Saturday, Oct. 26, at Apple Valley. Here he returns an interception against South St. Paul. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

One more Raider mistake sealed the game as Wagner was intercepted by Anger for a second time, this time deep in Hastings territory, and Anger took it back to the Raider 4-yard line. Kone took it in from 4 yards out and Apple Valley led 37-0 with 4:47 left in the third quarter. The reserves came in during the fourth quarter for Apple Valley and a running clock began. Midway through the fourth quarter, Hastings put together their best drive of the game featuring senior running back Josh Anderson and senior wide receiver Danny Brown. Senior tight end Izzy Arnold scored Hastings’ lone touchdown on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Wagner and after a missed extra point it was 37-6 Apple Valley with 4:57 remaining. The Raiders got the ball back one more time and were down to the Eagle 1-yard line but fumbled as time expired and that was the final.

Hastings ran for 197 yards, a significant portion of which came in the fourth quarter, and were led by McSorley who had 21 carries for 97 yards. Wagner was 8-for-19 passing for 49 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions as Hastings struggled to push the ball downfield. Arnold had 2 receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown while Brown had 4 catches for 20 yards.

Cruising past Henry Sibley

Hastings started fast off fast with plenty of help from Henry Sibley. The Warriors started with the ball and went three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, the ball barely got a couple feet off the ground and went into the back of a Henry Sibley lineman. It was recovered by the Raiders and senior running back Devon McSorley scored from 4 yards out later on in the drive to make it 7-0 Hastings with 9 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first quarter.

On Henry Sibley’s next possession, junior Raider defensive back Michael Gruwell came up with an interception on a tipped ball and Hastings started at the Warrior 45-yard line. The Raiders drove down, survived a fumble in the red zone and McSorley scored his second touchdown of the night from 1 yard out with 15 seconds left in the first quarter. Hastings led Henry Sibley 14-0 heading into the second quarter.

The Warriors were finally able to get something going at the beginning of the second quarter, but the Hastings defense held firm as Gruwell hauled in his second interception of the night, this time on a fade to the end zone where he leaped high for the catch and was just barely able to keep a foot in bounds. Starting at their own 20, the Raiders moved methodically down the field, the highlight being a 27-yard pitch and catch from senior quarterback Dylan Wagner to senior tight end Izzy Arnold. Wagner capped off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jackson Kirchoff to give Hastings a 21-0 lead with just 39 seconds left in the first half.

Senior wide receiver Jackson Kirchoff holds onto the ball after catching a 16-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Dylan Wagner on Tuesday night. Kirchoff had 3 catches for 40 yards and this touchdown in the game. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior wide receiver Jackson Kirchoff holds onto the ball after catching a 16-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Dylan Wagner on Tuesday night. Kirchoff had 3 catches for 40 yards and this touchdown in the game. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

Hastings started with the ball in the second half and looked to be set to go up 28-0 before Wagner was intercepted deep in Henry Sibley territory. Henry Sibley was not able to do anything and soon the Raiders were driving again but turned the ball over on downs near the end of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Hastings really started to impose their will at the line of scrimmage and McSorley scored his third touchdown of the game to put the Raiders up 28-0 with 6:55 left in the game. Henry Sibley was unable to muster any type of a comeback and 28-0 was the final.

Hastings ran for over 200 yards, led by senior running back Devon McSorley who had over 150 yards by himself, and racked up almost 300 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, the Raider defense was lights out as they held the Warriors to barely over 100 yards in total offense.

“I think we just got more comfortable running the ball and I needed to follow my reads, follow the hole,” McSorley said about the difference between running the ball Week 1 against Henry Sibley as opposed to Tuesday night.

“I think we all just felt more prepared for this and we’ve been together for way longer,” said senior lineman Sam Valentine. “We also knew that this our last time here and we wanted to leave here the right way. It’s a great place given to us by the city so we felt we needed to leave here the right way.”

McSorley led the rushing attack with 29 carries for 151 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow senior running back Josh Anderson added 10 carries for 46 yards and senior wide receiver Joe Nauer had 3 rushes for 25 yards.

Wagner was efficient in the passing game, going 5-for-9 for 76 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Kirchoff led the wide receiving corps with 3 catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. Seniors Izzy Arnold and Danny Brown had one catch each.

The Hastings defense held Henry Sibley to just 56 yards rushing and 46 yards passing. They forced two turnovers, both interceptions by Gruwell.

Junior defensive back Michael Gruwell leaps for his second interception of the night for the Raiders, who went on to beat Henry Sibley 28-0 in the first round of the section playoffs on Tuesday night, Oct. 22. Gruwell had both of Hastings' turnovers, the first being another interception on a tipped ball. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Junior defensive back Michael Gruwell leaps for his second interception of the night for the Raiders, who went on to beat Henry Sibley 28-0 in the first round of the section playoffs on Tuesday night, Oct. 22. Gruwell had both of Hastings' turnovers, the first being another interception on a tipped ball. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia