HANOVER — When Axtell's All-State quarterback Quinn Buessing was knocked out of the game in the first quarter, you'd been hard-pressed to find anyone that gave the Eagles a chance of knocking off No. 1 Hanover.
And to be honest, that includes the Eagles themselves.
"We were kind of a little scared," Axtell freshman Isaac Detweiler said of his team's mindset when they found out Buessing wouldn't return after taking a hard hit early in the second quarter.
After the initial shock wore off, the Eagles delivered a shock to Hanover's system. Not only did No. 3 Axtell hang tough with the three-time reigning Eight-Man Division II champion Wildcats, they hung the first loss Hanover's endured in more than three years with a stunning 28-26 victory.
Detweiler tied the game with a 10-yard pass to George Volle with 48.7 seconds left and Mitchell Buessing's halfback pass to Clark Werner on the two-point conversion gave Axtell (6-0) its first win over Hanover (5-1) since 2005. It also ended the Wildcats' eight-man state-record 43-game winning streak.
"Nobody knew what would happen," Axtell coach Eric Detweiler said. "When I told them Quinn wasn't going back in the game, they looked at me with kknd of a dazed look. I told them to just rally around him and roll with it. We punted that first possession, but after that we found our energy and our mentality came back. We believed in ourselves and it worked."
"We just stepped (after Buessing went out), came back with our hair on fire and won," Isaac Detweiler said.
Given the huge task of filling Buessing's monstrous shoes, Detweiler rose to the occasion. The freshman moved in from his receiver slot and led the Eagles back from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit, showing the composure of a seasoned veteran.
Down 20-12 at the end of the third quarter, Detweiler led Axtell on a 77-yard drive that started a the Eagles' own 3, teaming with Buessing to routinely gash the Hanover defense with a power ground game.
Buessing capped the drive, which featured 20-plus yard runs by both himself and Detweiler, with a 7-yard scoring run and Detweiler's conversion pass to Derek Buessing tied it 20-20.
Hanover immediately responded with a long kickoff return by Colin Jueneman to the Axtell 7 and scored two plays later on a Jueneman run that put the Wildcats back up 26-20.
After a three-and-out by Axtell, Hanover had a chance to put the game away. But the Eagles forced a punt and got the ball back at their own 21 with 2:58 left.
Axtell drove quickly to the Hanover 11, but a short gain on first down followed by two straight incompletions left the Eagles facing a fourth-and-9 at the 10 with just under a minute to play.
Hanover flushed Detweiler from the pocket but he found Volle — questionable to play with his left arm in a huge cast — open in the end zone and delivered a bullet to tie. Axtell called timeout to set up the conversion play and Detweiler pitched to Buessing who lofted a pass to Werner for the go-ahead points.
"I wanted to see how they lined up and I didn't like the look," Eric Detweiler said. "We changed the play and it's one we've worked on every once in awhile. We had two or three options and I thought this one would be open. Obviously it worked."
Hanover still had time and three timeouts and got the ball at its own 32 after a squib kickoff. Two plays later, Jueneman out-leaped an Axtell defender to haul in a 31-yard pass to set the Wildcats up at the Axtell 16 with 31 seconds left.
But on the next play, Jacob Jueneman overthrew his intended receiver and Detweiler picked off the pass at the Eagle 1 to secure the victory.
"I couldn't tell if he was nervous or not," Eric Detweiler said of Isaac, who is his son. "He showed great composure and he likes these big-time games and it showed."
Turnovers were a killer for Hanover, which committed a season-high four in the game. Jacob Jueneman was picked off three times and also lost a fumble, two coming in the first half to stymie any momentum Hanover built early.
And there was plenty. The Wildcats needed just three plays to open the game with a touchdown drive, capped by Teagan Schwartz's 4-yard run.
A 25-yard touchdown run by Colin Jueneman two possessions later made it 14-0 and when Buessing went out on Axtell's next series, it looked like Hanover might just blow the visiting Eagles out.
"When we got up 14-0, I think you could see our kids maybe have a breath of relaxation," Hanover coach Matt Heuer said. "That's something we need to work on going forward.
"I thought Axtell did a great job of exploiting some things on our end and I take full responsibility for not allowing our kids to be successful."
Axtell got within 14-6 on an 18-yard pass from Detweiler to Mitch Buessing. Hanover went back up 20-6 on Colin Jueneman's 24-yard touchdown grab, but the Eagles made it 20-12 at halftime with Detweiler hitting Werner for a 1-yard score on the final play of the half after getting stuffed on a sneak attempt.
Detweiler finished with 74 yards rushing and 65 passing while Buessing had 78 rushing yards. Jacob Jueneman threw for 156 yards with 153 of them going to Colin Jueneman, who also ran for 62 yards.
Hanover — Schwartz 4 run (pass failed)
Hanover — C. Jueneman 25 run (Schwartz run)
Axtell — M. Buessing 18 pass from Detweiler (run failed)
Hanover — C. Jueneman 24 pass from J. Jueneman (run failed)
Axtell — Werner 1 pass from Detweiler (run failed)
Axtell — M. Buessing 7 run (D. Buessing pass from Detweiler)
Hanover — C. Jueneman 4 run (run failed)
Axtell — Volle 10 pass from Detweiler (Werner pass from M. Buessing)
Rushing — Axtell: Q. Buessing 4-minus 4, Detweiler 25-74, M. Buessing 12-78, Volle 2-10. Hanover: Schwartz 9-12, C. Jueneman 11-62, J. Jueneman 9-38.
Passing — Axtell: Q. Buessing 5-7-0, 56 yards, Detweiler 10-16-0, 65 yards. Hanover: J. Jueneman 9-20-3, 156 yards.
Receiving — Axtell: Detweiler 1-9, D. Buessing 5-49, Werner 3-18, M. Buessing 5-35, Volle 1-10. Hanover: C. Jueneman 7-153, Schwartz 1-2, E. Jueneman 1-1.