MOUNT VERNON - Friday night brought about a painful loss in more ways than one for the Mount Vernon/Plankinton football team.
At the wrong end of turnovers, big plays and injuries, the third-ranked and previously undefeated Titans were upended 41-24 in the regular season finale in Mount Vernon.
Most notably, standout running back Jesse Hastings left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury and didn't return.
"We think it's a shoulder injury," coach Brent Olson stated. "We took him to the hospital to get looked at. I'd anticipate him not playing much in the playoffs at this point."
MVP fell behind from the start, as a 73-yard opening drive was capped with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Beresford quarterback Brad Christensen to Riley Johnson less than 5 minutes into the game.
The Titans (7-1) didn't hesitate to answer, marching 66 yards on 10 plays with a 2-yard touchdown run from Hayden Haak. But Hastings was injured on the two-point try, and the Titans took a while to recover. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Christensen hooked up with Jack Antonson on a 67-yard scoring pass and the Watchdogs led 14-6.
Self-inflicted mistakes took apart the Titans in the second quarter. An option pitch landed in MVP's own end zone and Beau Van Gelder jumped on it for the Watchdogs for six points, making it 20-6. Minutes later, MVP was driving inside the Beresford 5-yard-line and fumbled the ball, only to see Brady Peterson pick it up and run it back 88 yards for a touchdown, putting the Watchdogs up 28-6.
MVP battled back with two second-quarter touchdowns and went into intermission trailing 28-18. Haak hit Matt Koch on a 11-yard scoring pass and MVP picked up a 7-yard romp from Hunter Pranger.
The Titans' rally continued into the third quarter. An 67-yard opening drive was capped with a 1-yard touchdown run from Weston Tobin, trimming the Beresford lead to 28-24.
But after both teams swapped turnovers, Van Gelder had a big punt return to the MVP 5-yard-line and Christensen found Antonson once more for a touchdown catch, stretching the lead back to two scores at 35-24.
After another interception, Antonson hauled in his third touchdown pass of the game from 36 yards out and sealed the game for Beresford, which improved to 6-2 on the season.
The Titans also lost Haak with an apparent leg injury late in the game.
"We'll be alright. It's football," Olson said. "This time of the year everybody is playing with injuries. We just have to get our heads right because we can still win without a couple of guys."
MVP ran 57 times for 320 yards, with 358 yards of total offense, but turned the ball over four times. Tobin led the Titans on the ground with 86 yards rushing, followed by Haak with 85 yards. Pranger and Hastings had 62 and 55 yards, respectively on the ground. Beresford (6-2) finished the night with 212 total yards and 181 yards passing.
The Titans will be home for the first round of the playoffs on Thursday. But Olson said his team can't afford to look much further than that."
"I don't know where we fall in the grand scheme of things, but after tonight, we better be ready for the first game and not be thinking anything but that," he said.
B: Riley Johnson 30 pass from Brad Christensen (Tyler Kropuenske kick good)
MVP: Hayden Haak 1 run (Run failed)
B: Jack Antonson 63 pass from Christensen (Kropuenske kick good)
MVP: Beau Van Gelder fumble recovery in the end zone (Kropuenske kick failed)
MVP: Brady Peterson 88 fumble return (Christensen pass good)
MVP: Matt Koch 11 pass from Haak (Pass failed)
MVP: Hunter Pranger 7 run (Pass failed)
MVP: Weston Tobin 1 run (Run failed)
B: Antonson 11 pass from Christensen (Kropuenske kick good)
B: Antonson 36 pass from Kropuenske (Pass failed)