Revived Patriots pass the credit

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Heritage Hills quarterback Logan Wilkerson, right, completed 9-of-14 passes on a rainy Friday in Lincoln City to help steer the Patriots past Pocket Athletic Conference rival Forest Park 28-7. Wilkerson finished with 169 passing yards to boost a Patriot offense that had averaged just less than 75 passing yards per game in the first seven contests. For a gallery of photos, click here.


By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

LINCOLN CITY — To hear Spenser Minto tell it, his quarterback rifled a great pass.

From Logan Wilkerson’s perspective, his receiver made a great play in traffic, elevating above a pair of defenders and wrestling away the ball amid a gaggle of players in the end zone.

In the last two weeks, the Heritage Hills football team has all but eviscerated the bad memories that bubbled up during the Patriots’ recent three-game losing streak.

Heritage Hills is back to executing its typical role as a gridiron bully, with Friday night’s 28-7 Pocket Athletic Conference defeat of Forest Park at Patriot Field the latest example.

Heritage Hills (4-4, 4-2) led 21-0 when it forced Forest Park to punt for the sixth time with less than a minute to play before halftime. Then Wilkerson and his receivers finished the first half with a flourish, impressively covering 80 yards in just three plays.

First, Minto snatched a short screen pass and scampered up the sideline for 25 yards. Logan Steckler then hauled in a 29-yard reception along the sideline, dragging his feet before falling out of bounds.

That sequence set up a 26-yard Wilkerson-to-Minto scoring strike that was the result of Minto reading his defense well and Wilkerson following right along.

Minto said his defender was playing him inside. So instead of drawing him inside like he was supposed to, he adjusted. As did Wilkerson.

“Logan threw a perfect fade route and I caught it — touchdown,” Minto said of his quarterback, who didn’t have the luxury of having the majority of first-team snaps in practice as he started the season as the backup.

“He took a big step having to come up, not even taking very many snaps and then pulling that out, that was crazy.”

“Steckler made a great catch and Minto helped me out going up there and getting up in the air and catching the ball,” Wilkerson said.

The sophomore signal-caller played and talked of the victory like anything but a first-year starter.

He finished 9-of-14 for 169 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers during the night’s persistent rain.

“He throws the ball well, he’s an accurate passer,” Heritage Hills coach Todd Wilkerson said. “We haven’t really tried to take too many deep shots with him and that’s kind of what we wanted to do this week, is work at trying to stretch people a little more. The conditions obviously didn’t help us do that, but we want to make people worry about the whole field. We knew he was accurate, we’re just trying to work on that deep game a little more.”

Minto, meanwhile, corralled three receptions for 71 yards, and Steckler added two grabs for 41 yards.

Gabe Konerding caught a 31-yard touchdown pass, and Zach Lubbehusen (63 yards) and Tre Williams (16) added scoring runs, with Lubbehusen’s strike coming on the Pats’ first play of the game.

The Patriots played their fourth consecutive game without starting offensive linemen Andy Sickbert and Aaron Boehm. Wilkerson hopes to have Sickbert back for next Friday’s finale against South Spencer, with Boehm expected back by the first round of sectional. Their absence contributed to the Patriots’ nine penalties, as they shuffled new players into different personnel packages.

Forest Park (1-7, 0-6) continued to produce a handful of scrappy plays on defense while showing glimpses that the Rangers are able to produce offensively.

Forest Park cornerback Francis Bohnenkamper deflected a pair of passes. The Rangers also recovered a pair of fumbles. On the other side, stalwart running back Josh Voegerl again paced the Rangers with 97 rushing yards on 18 carries. He also registered the team’s score, rumbling in from 32 yards with 4:35 left in the game.

Forest Park coach Ross Fuhs, who was hoping to pass more with a new offensive package before the conditions made it difficult, liked that Voegerl was able to take advantage of his blocking and make something out of nothing when assignments broke down.

That last part is happening less and less for Forest Park, however.

“As far as communication and reading their keys, for the most part it was probably the best game we played all year,” Fuhs said. “So it’s a real big positive going into next week.”

The Rangers continue to have “a good attitude, a positive attitude” at practice, Fuhs said.

That’s what gives him the most confidence moving forward.

Todd Wilkerson was just as upbeat.

A two-game winning streak doesn’t usually cause for celebration within the Patriot locker room. But with music blaring and everyone in sight smiling, Todd Wilkerson talked like a coach completely removed from his team’s earlier struggles.

A big reason why is because his players don’t dwell on previous slip-ups.

“Our practice attitude has been way different,” Minto said. “We’ve been flying around the field, pumped up. Before every game now, it’s a different atmosphere.”

His coach couldn’t agree more, though he added the caveat that the players’ attitudes have been great the entire year, not just in the last two weeks.

Forget the record, and forget the weekend hangover that accompanies a loss. This is the football Todd Wilkerson expected to see.

“When you lose three in a row, you almost forget what it feels like to get up on Saturday morning after winning a game, it seems kind of ridiculous,” the Patriot coach said. “It just felt good and I think that, along with the good attitude that we’ve had, that just made us feel better. Stringing a couple of those together and getting rolling, that’s what we want to do.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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