After an explosive start saw Max McEnelly going 55 yards for a rushing touchdown to put Waconia up 6-0 just 1 minute into the game, it seemed like the dreaded curse would strike again. Since moving to their turf field at the new high school, the Wildcats were 0-6 when playing at home.
After the opening score, the mistakes piled up, with another long touchdown by McEnelly being called back because of a penalty, an interception that set up a Bloomington Jefferson field goal and a fumble at the goalline to end the half with Waconia up just 6-3 against a team that they had defeated 5 years in a row.
In the first home game this season, Waconia dominated play with double the time of possession and over 200 yards rushing, just for the same types of mistakes to doom them in a 20-13 loss to Robbinsdale Cooper. Yet this time around, the mood was different, as the Wildcats turned it around in the second half.
“Everyone thinks there’s a curse, but I think we just played bad,” said senior quarterback Karson Dobmeier.
Despite the rough first half, the ‘Cats knew that they could win the game. They just needed to relax and play their game. Waconia did exactly that and came out with two big scoring drives to win the game 19-11.
“We knew we were going to come out in the next half and win, we just needed to have fun like coach said, and we came out here and had fun and won,” said senior fullback Sam McEnelly. “This is awesome - first win ever on this field - nothing better. We thought it was cursed out here, but not today.”
Waconia continued to unleash their powerful run game to the tune of 232 yards, led by Max McEnelly’s 189 yards on 26 attempts (7.3). The sophomore running back has already eclipsed 500 yards rushing in just three games.
And then the passing game came alive, with Dobmeier tossing a pair of touchdowns to Sean Johnson and Owen Amrhein.
“Karson has been dialing it up,” said coach Corey Shea. “He’s done an excellent job with receivers - extra time before practice and after practice working with them. He’s hitting some nice dimes out there.”
Amrhein found a lot of open space behind the defense for the 41 yard score that put Waconia up 19-0 in the fourth quarter, but it was the earlier lob pass to Johnson that really turned the game into Waconia’s favor. Riding off of the success from last week that saw Dobmeier hit his receivers on fade routes for a pair of scores, the senior passer lobbed the ball to the corner of the endzone and succeeded again.
“The wide receivers just burn them deep,” he said. “I put it up for them and let them make a play, and that’s what happens.”
With the defender draped all over him, Johnson somehow managed to come down with the ball for a 24 yard score.
“That was probably the greatest catch I’ve seen in my life,” Dobmeier said. “I just threw it up, gave him a chance. They had pass interference, but he still came down with it, one handed on the helmet.”
With the Waconia defense swarming the ball, the 19 points were enough to hold on to the win.
“They did great job all the way - great group of tacklers,” said Shea. “Our coaching staff does a great job with them and they’re just fun to watch out there. They are flying around.”
The weather also gave Waconia a boost Friday night, though spectators may not have enjoyed the chilly, windy night. Boasting a punishing run game and a swarming defense, those hits took a toll on the opponent.
“[The cold is a benefit for us] every time - they don’t want to hit, we’ll hit em, we’ll destroy them every time,” said Sam McEnelly. “[It’s] just our mentality – we know how to hit, we know how to block. We’re big hitters out there.”
Sam McEnelly and Alex Riley led the defense with 10 tackles each, while Max McEnelly had eight. Waconia’s 232 rushing yards was contrasted with only 57 yards rushing from the Jaguars and just under 200 yards total
“We like to run the ball, we like to control the clock and the more we keep their offense on the bench, that helps us out too,” said Shea.
Not only did Waconia have to deal with the alleged curse, there was a COVID-19 scare earlier in the week, practice was cancelled on Tuesday due to the snowstorm and the rest of practice took place in the snow. But Waconia put it all behind them Friday night for the rewarding win.
“We’ve had some ups and downs on this field and it was great to get the first win with this crew,” said Shea. “And then this whole week we had ups and downs . . . to just come out here and flush out all that stuff, I’m really happy for our seniors.”