It may not have ended how they would have liked, but Nokomis' 52-48 loss to Marquette on Friday definitely showed what the Redskins were made of.
Coach Gabe Cesaretti said it best when he said, “My boys made their coach proud tonight. (It's)always disappointing to get beat, but they showed they can play anyone. We still have a lot to play for. I saw tons of guts and heart tonight.”
Nokomis kicked off to start the game and forced Marquette to punt in their first possession. The Redskins would dodge a bullet when a Lukas Hamlin pass was nearly picked off, but weren't able to move the ball on their opening drive and had to punt as well.
The Explorers worked the ball down field once they got the ball back, eventually handing off to Michael Ford, who busted through the Nokomis defensive line and scored from 63-yards out. The extra point was no good, making it 6-0, Marquette.
On the ensuing kick return, senior Ray Lovelace played deep. When he caught the ball, Lovelace took off straight up the sideline, showing Ford that he wasn’t the only fast one on the field. Ninety-five yards later, Lovelace scored the Skins' first touchdown, knotting the game at 6-6 after the missed extra point.
Marquette would go to Ford again on their next drive, but a hard hit knocked the ball out of his hands and Christian Randel was there for the recovery on the Marquette 26.
An Austin Chausse sweep resulted in a first down for Nokomis, who scored shortly after on a three-yard run by Bryce Pavoka. The two point run was no good and the Skins had a 12-6 lead with 7:45 to play in the first quarter.
Nokomis would score again less than a minute later after getting the ball back when Dolan O'Malley made an interception on Marquette's first pass attempt of the game and made it to the Explorers' five yard line.
With a tight squeeze, Chausse made the next touchdown from five yards out, with the score now 18-6, Nokomis.
Marquette would get back on the board in their next series, with Brandon Kizer running it in from the weak side from 24-yards out to make it a 18-12 ball game.
The Redskins would pick-up first downs from Chausse and Pavolka, working the ball down to the Marquette 8-yard line. There Hamlin would execute the quarterback keeper and score the Redskins' fourth touchedown of the game. After the successful two point conversion, Nokomis led 26-12 with 2:37 to play in the first quarter.
Nokomis would start the second quarter the same way they ended the first. After recovering another Marquette fumble, the Redskins found their way into the endzone again when Hamlin fired to Lovelace for a 20-yard touchdown reception. Chausse's extra point was good and the Skins were up 33-12.
On the kick off, Marquette was not going to let down as Ford took the ball 83 yards for a touchdown. The extra two points were no good and Marquette still trailed 33-18.
The Explorers got the ball back a short time after when they forced Hamin to fumble and recovered the loose ball. Facing a fourth and five from the 16-yard line, Marquette pitched to Ford, who went left and ran in for a touchdown. The two points were no good and the score stood at 33-24, Nokomis.
Both teams would have their chances to score before the end of the half, but neither could as Lovelace capped off the second quarter with an interception.
Nokomis was forced to punt on their first possession after halftime and Marquette took advantage by marching down the field and scoring on a one-yard run by Ford with 5:17 to play in the third quarter. The extra point kick was good and the Nokomis lead dwindled to two at 33-31.
The Redskins would come out throwing on first down after the kickoff, advancing the ball to the 40 yard line.Chausse and Lovelace would continue to move the ball into Marquette territory,before a run by Hamlin gave Nokomis a first-and-goal situation.
From there Chausse took over, running in a five-yard touchdown and kicking the extra point to make it 40-31.
Marquette was far from done though as they scored on their next two possessions in the span of 38 seconds. The first score came on a 43-yard run by Ford, followed by a 79-yard scamper up the middle by Keshon Young to make it 45-40 with 11:12 to play in the game.
Nokomis' next drive would stall out, but Marquette fumbled away possession, giving the Skins the ball at the 21-yard line. Lovelace would put Nokomis back on top with a 16-yard touchdown run, followed by a Hamlin to Randel pass for the two-point conversion that made it 48-45 Nokomis.
After an out of bounds kick, Marquette marched up to the Nokomis 43 yard line. A holding call moved them back to the Nokomis 48, but Ford kept the chains moving and the Explorers eventually got it down to the two yard line. With eight seconds left, Young scored his second touchdown of the game, making it 52-48 after the extra point kick.
Nokomis would get one last chance after the kickoff, but Hamlin's pass to Lovelace was intercepted as the Explorers escaped with a four-point win.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be captain of this team," Randle said after the game. "Everyone fought for each other until the very end. That’s more than what I could ask for.”
Nokomis will be at home on Friday, Oct. 5th at 7 p.m., when they face Metro-East Lutheran.