HAWLEY, Minn. - Hawley quarterback Jacob Vetter watched from the sideline last year during Hawley's last offensive drive of the football season. He tore his ACL, his meniscus and broke his tibia during the game and could not play the final drive. He watched as Barnesville celebrated a Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 championship and there was nothing he could do about it.
"That was about the worst thing I could have thought of," Vetter said. "Torn ACL, torn meniscus, broken leg, didn't know it at the time obviously, but sitting and watching was the hardest thing I've ever done."
On Friday, facing undefeated and No. 3-ranked Barnesville, Vetter was on the field with 6 minutes, 37 seconds remaining and Hawley gripping to a one-point lead. Vetter would not see the sideline again, until he ran to it to celebrate a 19-18 win, leading a drive to take the final 6:37 off the clock.
"It's a complete 180-degree turn," Vetter said. "Last year was so hard to watch, but then this year it felt so good to come back and make a difference."
On the final drive, Hawley saw a third-and-5 from midfield and a third-and-4 from the Barnesville 37. Both times Vetter went to Chase Libak to get first downs.
"It feels amazing," Libak said. "I knew my quarterback was going to get it to me. I knew we could do it. They were playing too far back."
The final dagger for No. 8-ranked Hawley came with 1:06 remaining. Hawley had fourth-and-2 from the Barnesville 20-yard line and drew Barnesville offside. Hawley coach Peder Naatz had said in a timeout before the play to go on two because the Trojans had been cheating up all night.
"We were down, we didn't quit, we didn't lay down, we kept fighting," Naatz said. "This is a huge win and our kids have figured out how to finish and we're going to keep it rolling."
Hawley caught a break on the opening drive, as Barnesville fumbled a punt and Hawley's Noah Glad pounced on it on the Barnesville 30-yard line. Six plays and two third-down conversions later, Vetter punched it in for a 2-yard touchdown run to put Hawley up 7-0.
Barnesville answered as quickly as possible, as Preston Snobl took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. Adam Tonsfeldt was stuffed on the two-point attempt, so Hawley kept a 7-6 lead.
Barnesville marched 68 yards on 12 plays on a drive that took more than five minutes, capping it with a 23-yard touchdown run for Chase Brenner on the second play of the second quarter.
Hawley had the final answer of the first half. The Nuggets had 3 minutes, 4 seconds remaining in the first half, the ball and were looking at 80 yards in front of them. Vetter picked up every one of those yards, passing for 60 and rushing for 20. He found Hunter Magnusson for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 48 seconds remaining in the first half. Vetter was stuffed on the two-point attempt, so the Nuggets took a 13-12 lead into halftime.
"The atmosphere is insane," said Libak, who finished with eight catches for 117 yards. "They're talking smack, we're talking smack, everyone is getting at it. The intensity is at a different level than it is a regular game."
Barnesville had the first punch of the second half, as Tonsfeldt went 35 yards for a touchdown run on the opening drive of the half. Vetter was all over the two-point attempt, taking down Brenner in the backfield to keep the Barnesville lead at 18-13.
"It was two good football teams going at each other and we needed that and they needed that," Barnesville coach Bryan Strand said. "Our kids played hard, I couldn't be prouder of them. It's a game I expected. It came down to extra points."
Hawley punched back, converting a Barnesville turnover into points. Barnesville fumbled a snap, Karter Kopacek jumped on it and Hawley was in business. On third-and-12, Libak made a diving catch down at the 1-yard line and Vetter punched in the final yard to put Hawley up 19-18 with 4:27 left in the third.
Vetter threw for 186 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 33 yards and two touchdowns.
"Jake's been pent up for a long time," Naatz said. "He's been going through a lot of emotional things in just getting over the injury last season and having it happen in that game. He wanted this more than anyone."
H 7 6 6 0--19
B 6 6 6 0--18
H--Vetter 2 run (Klevgaard kick)
B--Snobl 80 kick return (run failed)
B--Brenner 30 run (pass failed)
H--Magnusson 21 pass from Vetter (run failed)
B--Tonsfeldt 35 run (run failed)
H--Vetter 1 run (kick missed)