Two weeks. Two wins. That's how things have gone over the past 14 days for the Hastings football team. The Raiders improved to 2-1 on the season with a 14-7 win over Park of Cottage Grove Friday night.
"With every win, you gain confidence, so when you put two wins together, it's two weeks in a row where you build some momentum," Hastings coach Dana Strain said. "It really makes you feel like you are headed in the right direction."
Turnovers were the story of the game. Hastings had one and Park had three. More importantly, the Wolfpack fumbled the ball on the Hastings one yard line late in the fourth quarter on what could have been a game-tying touchdown. Connor Stevens and Theo Schroeder were at least two of the Hastings players who were in on the tackle. The Raiders recovered the ball and held on to win.
"It was a huge play for us," Strain said. "There were a couple times in the fourth quarter where they had the ball on our side of the field, and our defense stopped them. We played pretty well on defense.
"'The thing we did well defensively was that we didn't give up any big plays. We gave up some yardage and some drives, but we made them march down the field and tried to force them into making some mistakes."
Dan Guelle had a big night for Hastings with a first-half interception and a fumble recovery. He also starred on offense, scoring a touchdown on a 64-yard pass reception.
"He was certainly a big playmaker for us," Strain said. "That's what he has done all year long. Those big plays like that are game-changing."
Guelle caught a short pass on a slant route from quarterback Mike Hill, then turned it upfield and took off.
"He's so good out in space," Strain said. "It was a five-yard slant, and he went about 60 yards with it. Mike threw a nice ball and hit him on the numbers, but Dan is so good out in space. He's pretty tough to catch. If you don't catch him right away, there's a good chance he'll go the distance."
Hastings had a big change in the backfield for the Park game. Hill started his first game at quarterback.
Matt Anderson, who had started the first two games, moved to tailback.
"Mike played pretty well," Strain said. "He had some rust, but he limited his turnovers and had a couple nice runs on scrambles.
"One of the big reasons we made the decision was because Matt is just a very good football player, period. We put him at tailback, and he had a nice game back there. He's such a physically gifted kid."
The strategy seemed to work. Anderson had 17 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. Hill completed five pass attempts for 130 yards and a touchdown. Hill also ran eight times for 113 yards.
"We're pretty excited about the fact that Mike will just get better," Strain said. "And we think Matt will only get better at tailback. We think he can be a pretty good one."
Jake Berens had one carry for two yards; Guelle had a carry for five yards; Tyler Mellick had four carries for 21 yards.
Tony Hammes had two catches for 59 yards, Guelle had a 64-yard reception, Mellick had a catch for six yards and Peter Schultz had one catch for one yard.
Tom Ling kicked two extra points.
Week No. 4
Hastings plays host to Mounds View at McNamara Stadium at Todd Field Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m. A Hastings Football Connections tailgate party is planned from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the field.
On the field, the Raiders won't have an easy task, as the Mustangs are the No. 8-ranked team in the state. They beat Roseville in the season opener, 28-0, before falling to Stillwater in the second week, 19-7.Mounds View beat Woodbury last week, 35-7.
"I just know they're traditionally a pretty good football team," Strain said. "They lost a tough one to Stillwater and last week, they really laid one on Woodbury. It's going to be a very big challenge for us. We'll certainly have our hands full, but we're excited about it and we'll accept the challenge."