Homecoming wasn’t looking very welcoming for the Little Falls Flyers.
Even after Collin Eckman returned the opening kickoff of the Sept. 29 football game 88 yards for a 6-0 Flyers lead, things weren’t looking good.
“We weren’t expecting that, it just pretty much came open,” said Eckman of the opening return. “We blocked it perfectly and I saw the seam and didn’t stop running.”
Then things went south fast. Mora scored 26 straight points and it looked like another tough loss for the Flyers, who started the season 0-3.
In the second half, however, the Flyers’ offense started humming. Three-year starting quarterback Spencer Fenske hit Eckman for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Those two connected again on a 12-yard strike to cut Mora’s lead to 32-26.
“We have a great quarterback in Spencer,” said Eckman. “He puts me in position to make plays. He throws the ball right to my hands. All I have to do is stick them out and he puts the ball right there every time. I think he’s the best quarterback in this area.
“He and I have always been on the same page. We’ve been playing together since we were 10 years old, whether it was baseball or football. This year, especially, we just know what the other is going to do.”
That connection has produced 25 receptions for 230 yards and five touchdowns. That’s a 9.2-yard per catch average this season.
“Collin is very intelligent and runs great routes,” said Flyers first-year head coach Jay DeCann. “He has phenomenal hands and he’s got that swagger about him. If we’re running the ball he wants to be put in as a running back. He wants to be involved and he is one of those guys that will tell you to jump on his back because he’s going to get the job done.”
Eckman finished the Mora game with 11 receptions for 93 yards and the two scores. But there’s more.
Eckman was thrown into the secondary to make plays and that’s what he did. He intercepted two passes — the first one setting up the game-winning touchdown.
“He’s not on defense full-time, but we needed to make plays,” DeCann said. “We needed to come back from a big deficit and we had them on the ropes, but we needed to get the ball away from them. We put him in the game during passing situations and he’s just a gamer. He’s found ways to make plays.”
On the season, Eckman has nine tackles and the two picks. He’s returned nine kickoffs for a 25.2-yard per return average. He’s also the team’s punter with a 31 yards-per-kick average.
“All the seniors had to step up from a leadership standpoint this season,” said Eckman. “We had a new head coach that was new to our system and we had to adjust. We needed to help him out through the transition. All of us took control.
“Those first three teams we played were unbelievable. We started the season against Hutchinson. They’re ranked No. 3 in Class 4A. Then we played St. Cloud Cathedral. They were ranked in 3A and then we played Becker who is ranked fourth in 4A. That was a brutal opening schedule.
“We have things going right now, though. Our running game is getting established and we have two really good backs. Our defense is stopping the big plays and now our offense is a threat through the air or on the ground. Things are starting to come together.”
Other notable performances:
Cross country: Mike Ryan, Pequot Lakes, won the Northland Invite in 17:00.
Football: Dillon Card, Verndale, rushed for 78 yards and three touchdowns against Prairie Valley.
Jalen Wuchko, Little Falls, rushed for 213 yards and two touchdowns against Mora.
Dylan Wasserzieher, Crosby-Ironton, rushed for 123 yards against Eveleth-Gilbert.
Evan Van Erp rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 158 more yards against Osakis.
Pierz offensive line, helped the Pioneers rush for 488 yards against Eden Valley-Watkins.
Josh Lanners, Pierz, rushed for 288 yards and six touchdowns against Eden Valley-Watkins.
Soccer: Tim Infinger, Little Falls, finished with three goals and an assist against St. John’s Prep.
Dawson Barringer, Lake Region, scored three goals against Karlstad.