by Kyle Herschelman
After last week’s loss to Central A&M, Nokomis’ football team could have gone out of business when they found themselves 20-6 at halftime on Friday, September 10 against East Alton-Wood River.
Instead, the Redskins put in a dominant second-half effort and improved to 2-1 this season with a 24-20 victory over the Oilers.
East Alton-Wood River came in first on the board after both teams returned the ball on their first shots (the Oilers on a fumble and Nokomis on downs).
With both teams focusing on the pitch, the quarter went quickly and it was just 3:41 left on the clock when Seth Slayden scored four yards to give the Oilers a 6-0 lead.
Nokomis staged his own goalscoring campaign, but it was bittersweet as All-State backer Landon Engelman left the game early in the race with a broken arm. Engelman underwent surgery to repair several fractures on Saturday and will be on the sidelines for the remainder of his senior year.
The fact that the rally came without Engelman, who rushed for 311 yards in the first two games, and senior running back Matt Hill (168 yards in the first two games) made the Redskins’ comeback even more impressive.
But before the rally of three touchdowns, the Redskins scored for the first time on an 8-yard Connor Overby rush that tied the game at 6-6.
The Skins then intercepted a pass from Oilers quarterback Chase Keshner, but couldn’t capitalize and pushed the ball away with 6:39 left in the first half.
After limiting the Oilers from any great playing opportunities in the first quarter and a half, the visitors broke free once the ball was recovered, with Seth Slayden scoring 37 yards with 5:54 on the clock.
The Oilers’ 14-6 lead increased to six before the quarter ended in an interception, and a 35-yard drive in six games resulted in a two-yard touchdown from Keshner to make it 20-6.
Broken down, but not absent, Nokomis got to work in the second half. Connor Overby gave the Redskins a strong field position with a Nokomis 45 kick return to start the third quarter, then Jake Johnson scored six plays later on a 24-yard run.
The Oilers got the ball in midfield after the ensuing kick-off, but faced a 4th and 1 from 49. Receiving a big push in the middle, the Nokomis line met half-back Kiyu Stilts just behind the line of scrimmage and dropped the 5 ‘second year by 8 inches for a one yard loss.
Nokomis would face two quarters of their own runs in the race that followed, but fared much better than their counterparts. On the 4th and 1 of 12, Jake Watson dove forward for a gain of two yards deep into Oilers territory for a first down.
Three games later, Nokomis was in worse shape, facing a 4th and -14 after a game delay. With 1:04 left in the quarter, Overby rolled to his right and found Jake Johnson in the corner for a nine-yard touchdown pass that reduced the EAWR’s lead to 20-18.
On kickoff, Nokomis covered the comeback well, stopping the Oilers at their own 18, but gave up on a personal foul on the next play as EAWR moved the ball to the 35. Two double-digit runs by visitors gave them two first tries. and the ball at Nokomis 40 and momentum.
Then the Redskins stepped up, stopping a run at the line of scrimmage and forcing a fumble, which Keshner recovered, but was injured on the play. Facing 3rd and 17th with substitute Kenny Morton now in. the shotgun, the Oilers opted to pass and the Redskins made them pay off as they covered the intended receiver three times and fended off Morton’s attempt.
With a personal foul on the tankers moving Nokomis to the EAWR 31, the Redskin racing game continued to progress. Jake Watson smashed a three-play run for a 13-yard gain, then Jake Johnson added 13 more yards on a deadly touchdown run that saw him bulldoze an Oiler defenseman en route to the end zoned.
The two-point conversion failed, but Nokomis now held the lead, 24-20, with 7:43 to go.
Things turned from bad to worse for the Oilers in a hurry as they tried to run down the middle in their first offensive play after Johnson’s touchdown. Like a greased pig, the ball sprang out of the running back’s hands and advanced for several yards, where Nolan Ernst dove on it to retrieve a fumble.
From there, the Redskins began with the systematic destruction of the remaining seven minutes and 23 seconds of the game clock and the Oilers’ hopes of a comeback.
Three different times Nokomis faced the fourth try in the last try and all three times they came out with the first tries. One came after a tough tally that resulted in the Oilers being offside in the 4th and 4th, while Watson advanced five yards over another in the 4th and 3rd after EAWR tried to save time by taking two time outs.
The third fourth down conversion was the dagger. In the 4th and 5th, Johnson broke a 20 yard that almost put the senior in the end zone. He had missed three yards, but the run meant the Oilers wouldn’t have enough time for a comeback, even on a Hail Mary.
In total, Nokomis ran for 262 yards on 56 carries, with Jake Watson and Jake Johnson taking over in the absence of Engelman and Hill. Watson ran 27 times for 135 yards, while Johnson gained 80 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively, Nolan Ernst had one interception, a fumble and a pair of tackles, while Isaac Satterlee also had one pick and two tackles. Kaden Cook also recovered a fumble for the Redskins. Craig Bertolino led the team in tackles with nine, followed by Jake Johnson, Connor Overby and Jake Watson with six each.
The win puts the Redskins in a position to enter next Friday’s second leg against Litchfield with momentum toward victory number three.
September 10 in Nokomis
MEED (1-2) 6 14 0 0 20
Nokomis (2-1) 0 6 12 6 24
1st – 3:41 – (E) – Seth Slayden TD from 4 yards (missed kick)
2nd – 9:59 – (N) – Connor Overby 8 yards TD run (failed 2 pts conversion)
2nd – 5:54 – (E) – Seth Slayden 37 yards TD (2pt conversion)
2nd – 0:23 – (E) Chase Keshner TD from 2 yards (missed kick)
3rd – 9:44 – (N) – Jake Johnson 24-yard rush (2-point conversion failure)
3rd – 1:04 – (N) – Received 9-yard touchdown by Jake Johnson of Connor Overby (failed 2-point conversion)
4th – 7:43 – (N) – Jake Johnson 13-yard TD run (failed 2pt conversion)
By the way (1-2-9): Connor Overby 1-2-9, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Precipitation (56-262): Jake Watson 27-135; Jake Johnson 13-80, 2 TD; Landon Engelman 2-24; Connor Overby 7-16; Isaac Satterlee 7-7.
Reception (1-9): Jake Johnson 1-9, 1 TD.
Defense (Solo / Assists): Craig Bertolino 1/8; Jake Johnson 2/4; Connor Overby 1/5; Jake Watson 1/5; Wyatt Dooley 0/5; Leatherworker Woolard 1/2; Nolan Ernst 0/2, 1 INT, 1 FR; Isaac Satterlee 1/1, 1 INT; Cooper Bertolino 0/1; Kaden Cook 0/1, 1 FR; Landon Engelman 1/0.