By MATT FUNDERBURK AND BECCA NEUGER
FOR THE LAKER
The Mound Westonka High School football team started the season with a win for the fourth straight year.
The White Hawks owe their 19-17 victory over St. Paul Highland Park in large part to senior kicker and punter Jonathan Neve, whose last-minute field goal lifted the White Hawks over the Scots in the Sept. 1 home game. Neve went a perfect 4-for-4 in field goal attempts, with his longest being 37 yards.
The White Hawks got on the board early thanks to Neve’s golden boot. After a pair of made field goals, the White Hawks led 6-0 at the end of the first quarter. They increased their lead to 13-0 in the second quarter when junior quarterback Brandon Hokkanen found junior tight end Thomas Elliott to complete a six-yard touchdown pass.
The White Hawks’ shutout didn’t last, with the defense giving up 24 and 36-yard touchdown passes to trail 14-13 at halftime. Highland Park kicker Leul Lemma made a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter to put the Scots up 17-13.
In the fourth quarter, Neve brought the game back within 1 with another shot between the uprights. With just 32 seconds remaining in the game, Neve kicked a game-winning 29-yard field goal to give the White Hawks a 1-0 start to the season.
White Hawks head coach Nick David said he was wasn’t happy overall with the team’s performance Friday night, but there were some shining moments. “There were a lot of points left on the field due to simple mistakes and miscues, but I was very happy with the way the boys responded to being down and the way they finished in the fourth quarter,” David said.
“Being down both going into halftime and entering the fourth quarter is never an easy mountain to climb, but the boys responded and fought to the last whistle, which is a true testament to the heart and desire of this team,” David added.
In addition to four field goals and one extra point, Neve kicked four touchbacks and pinned the Scots inside the 20 twice while punting. “[Neve] had a phenomenal game,” said David. “We were very pleased to see the calmness and poise that he kicked with on Friday night.”
Also performing well for the White Hawks were senior running backs Bobby Sweet and Conner Clark, who combined for 104 yards on 28 carries. “They fought for some very tough yards, which was pivotal during the second half,” said David. The pair was also tough on defense, with Sweet recording two sacks and Clark having six tackles.
Hokkanen finished his first start at QB going eight for 21 for 119 yards with one touchdown and one interception. “Brandon struggled at times in the first half, but we were very happy to see how he stepped up in the fourth quarter,” David said.
Senior Evan Dahl had a great game receiving, finishing with four catches for 104 yards and also had four tackles on defense. Junior Kris Kurtz paced the White Hawks defense with 14 tackles, including a sack. Senior defensive tackle Jarek Witczek also played well, recording eight tackles in the game.
Next up for the White Hawks is an away game at St. Paul Johnson on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m.