Coming off a physical game with Chaska, bodies were sore, emotions were running high after returning the Jug traveling trophy back to Chanhassen for the first time since 2016.
A short week of practice, Waconia coming to town Nov. 5, how the Storm would respond was a mild concern. Three drives in, one starting in Wildcat territory, no points on the board, the concern turned a bit greater.
"We knew the ability to rebound and play with the same emotion wasn't realistic so it was about focusing on the little things and emphasize on the things we can control. We kind of figured it might be 0-0 after the first quarter unless we hit a big play. They're well-coached, they're a solid team. It was about not over-complicating things, letting our players play," Chanhassen head coach Cullen Nelson said.
One play turned the tide.
Tucker Pinkerton found a small crease in the interior of the line, sprinting 55 yards for the 7-0 lead. The first of five Storm touchdowns, a 34-0 win to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2016.
Chanhassen, which had a week two game cancelled due to COVID concerns, plays its final scheduled regular season game on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at winless St. Louis Park.
After holding Waconia from the 10-yard line on the final two plays of the first half, an interception from Ryan Maschka keeping the zero on the board, a quick start to the third quarter was ideal up 13-0.
A bouncing kick-off hit the hands of Pinkerton, the ball collected by Josh Och at the 16-yard line, the sophomore headed for the right side. Getting key blocks from Charlie Coenen, Hunter Schwimmer and Brennan Radtke, a final bump from Kurt Schaefer, and Och was off to the races for the 20-0 lead.
It was the second kick-off return for a touchdown to open the second half this season for the Storm. Coenen broke multiple tackles for a touchdown return in week one versus Bloomington Jefferson.
It was the third score in two weeks for Och, a sophomore.
"We spend time on that. We try and be committed to putting kids out there that can do that. Kids out there that can block and make big things happen. It's great for a young guy like Josh to respond after a big game last week and come out and play well again tonight. It's a three-phase game and it's always great when you can execute on special teams," Nelson said.
A 20-point deficit seemed safe, Waconia unable to pick-up a first down on three of its five first-half drives. A heavy run-oriented offense led by sophomore back Max McEnelly (633 yards, seven touchdowns in five games) bottled up by the Chanhassen front-seven.
McEnelly, also a state wrestling champion, was held to 72 yards on 18 carries. Waconia picked up just 58 yards passing on 22 attempts as well.
"Our kids on defense flew around and did an unbelievable job. I couldn't have imagined holding (McEnelly) down like we did. I'm not sure he had a run of more than 10 yards. Incredible job," Nelson said.
A week after Chaska rallied from a 25-7 deficit to within 25-20, finishing strong was on the minds of every Chanhassen player and coach.
A goose-egg, a shutout, was exactly what was needed.
"We always talk to our kids about just getting better at stuff. We're a week away from the playoffs starting, but this was only still game four for us, so that growth for us is important. I love that when we challenge our kids, they meet it. We practice it, we talk about it, not having that lull. It's the same thing thing, pedal down, no matter what the score is," Nelson said.
Chanhassen put the game away in the fourth quarter, finishing off drives, one starting at the Waconia 34, on short touchdown runs of eight and five yards from Pinkerton and Brady Grandstaff.
Pinkerton topped 100 yards for the second time this season on the ground.
Quarterback Riley Funk had a big night as well for the Storm, completing 10-of-18 passes for 219 yards. A second-quarter throw over the top to Josh Kirchoff turned into a 69-yard catch and run to extend the lead to 13-0.
Funk connected with his trio of receivers -- Kirchoff (four catches, 85 yards), Coenen (three catches, 68 yards) and Och (two catches, 55 yards) -- often.
With the win, Chanhassen secured a first-round bye in the Section 2-5A playoffs, which is expected to run normally with quarterfinals on Tuesday, Nov. 17 and semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 21. The Storm would host the second round as the No. 1 or 2 seed.
Currently, Mankato West, like the Storm, are unbeaten on the season. Their toughest test comes Nov. 6 against Owatonna.