Dover-Eyota stops Lourdes short in season-opening battle of the Eagles

Sep. 1—EYOTA — Rochester Lourdes has visions of big things happening this season, with 16 starters returning from last season's seven-win team.

Dover-Eyota has an equally big vision this season, with close to a dozen of its own starters back. Those hard-nosed veterans helped the Eagles walk off their home field with heads held high Friday night, as Dover-Eyota opened its 2023 schedule with a down-to-the-wire 18-16 victory against visiting Lourdes.

"We have a very energetic group with many seniors who return with one or more years of varsity experience," second-year D-E coach Jon Hauswald told the Post Bulletin prior to the start of the season.

"Credit to Dover-Eyota," Lourdes coach Mike Kesler said. "They played harder than we did and got off to a great start. We can't turn the ball over four times in a game and expect to win."

Though it led for much of the game — including the entire second half — Dover-Eyota couldn't breathe easily until a 4th-and-21 pass from Lourdes quarterback Adam Sellner, from the D-E 44-yard line, fell incomplete near the end zone with 45 seconds to go.

That sealed the victory for D-E, whose defense came up big, time and again in the second half. Perhaps the biggest stop that defense made came with 4:17 to go, after Sellner connected with Trevor Heindel for a 55-yard touchdown pass to pull Lourdes to within 18-16. Lourdes' attempted to run to its left on the 2-point conversion attempt, but Dover-Eyota's defense stretched to the sideline and stopped the Lourdes ball carrier a yard shy of the end zone.

"I was really impressed with what Dover-Eyota did up front (defensively)," Kesler said. "It's Week 1. We know now what we have to work on and what we can focus on to get ready for P-E-M next week."

Lourdes' defense responded with a big stop of its own, holding D-E a yard short of a first down at the D-E 38 with 2:20 to go. D-E punted the ball to Lourdes, which returned it to the D-E 46.

Lourdes recorded one first down, to the D-E 33, but then went backward. Bolton Thesing dropped Caleb Akinbolu for a 6-yard loss on first down, then after an incomplete pass on second down, Lourdes was called for a chop block and backed up into its own side of the field. Thesing made another big open-field tackle on third down, setting up a 4th-and-21 for Lourdes with less than a minute to play. Sellner's deep pass didn't connect, giving D-E a win in the season opener.

"There were a lot of positives," Kesler said. "It was a hard-fought game; I'm really happy with our second half, for our defense to shut them out. But we have to be ready to go from the opening kickoff, focus on the fundamentals — we have to take care of the football if we want to win."

Lourdes and Dover-Eyota have not met often on the football field, despite their home fields being just a 15-minute drive apart.

This was only the third meeting between the teams in at least the past 15 years. Lourdes had won the previous two — a 13-0 win in the 2018 Section 1, Class 3A championship game; and a 13-6 win in the opening game of the regular season the next fall, 2019.

The win is a huge momentum boost for a D-E program that's on the rise. The Eagles went 5-4 under coach Jon Hauswald last season, after the program had just one winning season in the prior 11 years — an 8-3 mark in 2018, when they reached the section final.

Dover-Eyota is at home again in Week 2, hosting Cannon Falls at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9. Lourdes plays its home opener next Friday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. against Plainview-Elgin-Millville, at Rochester Regional Stadium.

Complete statistics were not available.