sports journalist

RYAN S. CLARK

By Ryan S. Clark

 

Hey, Steve. This might be your first year, but that’s how you throw a homecoming party.

 

First-year Minnesota State Moorhead coach Steve Laqua is trying to do a lot in his first year. On Saturday, he made school history. His Dragons picked up the first overtime win in school history with a 29-22 victory over Minnesota-Crookston.

 

“Really?” was Laqua’s reaction when he found out it was the program’s first overtime win. “I think we played hard between the lines and we overcame some adversity towards the end. For our kids to come back and win in overtime says a lot about the kind of kids we have.”

 

You know what else can be said about the kind of kids Laqua has? For one, they love to party.

 

Crookston (1-2) running back Richard Haley was just 2 yards away from scoring until linebacker Jeff Schuette put a hit on Haley forcing a fumble that was recovered by Tyler Brody. When Brody got the ball, he held it up high for the crowd and really all of Moorhead to see.

 

It was as if Brody was saying, “See, we got this.”

 

“I saw him coming through that hole,” Schuette said, recalling his hit on Haley. “But I said, ‘No. Not this time.’”

 

Though everyone else knew the Dragons won, Laqua admitted he was the last one to know. He saw Brody come up with the ball. He saw his entire team flood the field like a sea of red. And yes, he heard the crowd erupt with happiness.

 

But he checked with the one person whose opinion actually matters. That’s the ref. And once the ref said the Dragons recovered, it was time to exhale.

 

MSUM had a chance to win the game in regulation as quarterback Kevin Koch marched the team down the field, getting the Dragons to the 15-yard line with around 20 seconds left. Koch faced an eight-man rush and he threw a pass that was picked off in the end zone, which later set up overtime.

 

The Dragons opened the frame with the ball and scored the eventual gamewinning touchdown on a 3-yard run by E’Boni Lucious-West. His run wasn’t easy. But like someone else with his namesake of West, he was just harder, better, faster, stronger.

 

“E’Boni really worked hard for that touchdown,” Laqua said. “His legs just kept churning and he was able to score.”

 

Lucious-West had a solid day, rushing 15 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Yet even his performance couldn’t match the one by Haley, who rushed 43 times for 249 yards. In all, Crookston ran the ball 73 times for 364 yards.

 

Though Haley had the big numbers, it was Lucious-West that had the one thing his counterpart didn’t have. A game-winning touchdown. In overtime no less.

 

As was mentioned, this was homecoming for MSUM, and it appeared this one showed alumni that things are changing. And don’t think the alums weren’t happy. They were waiting for players at the end of the game. They congratulated Laqua and others too.

 

“It comes down to what I told the players, which is about doing the right things on the practice field and days like this allow your character to show,” Laqua said. “For them to show they’ve been through it, they’ve persevered, they’ve grown tighter, that’s what’s fun to see on a Saturday.”

Dragons edge Crookston in OT

Sports  |  Sept. 25, 2011  |  Page D5

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