After going 1-4 for three yards and three interceptions in the first half, the Nokomis High School football team went to its ground game in the second half, running the ball in 30 of their 31 offensive plays. The one exception, though, is the play that everyone will remember in Nokomis' 15-14 week eight win over East Alton-Wood River on Oct. 18.
After being stopped on the East Alton-Wood River six yard line and three yard line in their previous two offensive series, Nokomis got the ball back and was facing a fourth and 11 from the 50 yard line, with just 35 seconds left in the game. The Oilers were up 14-7 at the time, having led 14-0 at the break.
After a timeout to assess the situation, Nokomis quarterback Alex Tosetti dropped back to pass and found a wide open Landon Engelman down the right side. Engelman, who lost his man around the Oiler 30, hauled in Tosetti's pass at the 15 yard line and ran untouched into the end zone.
The Redskins weren't done yet, though. Down 14-13, Coach Paul Watson sent his special teams unit on the field for what looked like an extra point attempt from Jeremy Brown. Instead, Tosetti, popped up after receiving the ball from the holder's spot and threw a short pass to a well-covered Adam Lyons, who caught the two-point conversion to make it 14-13.
Once the celebration died down, Nokomis went back to work, kicking a squibbler down the middle of the field to the EAWR 25. After an incomplete pass, Kenny Beachum hooked up with an Oiler receiver for a 35-yard gain, but the Redskins drove the home team back on a sack by Koester Cook, Derick Bell and Ryan Janssen and another tackle in the backfield that allowed time to run out on the clock.
The victory secured Nokomis' sixth win of the season after the Redskins just missed the playoffs last year at 5-4. This will be their first trip to the postseason under Paul Watson, with the last playoff appearance coming in 2014 under Gabe Cesaretti.
"I don't think my heart could take it if we did this every week," said Coach Watson, who made an agreement with his players to grow a mullet this season. While the "hockey hair" is still in the process, the playoff beards for Watson and his staff are already in postseason form.
Tosetti's connection with Engelman capped off a comeback from 14 points down after the Oilers scored twice in the first half. Brody Newberry, who gained 166 of EAWR's 213 rushing yards, took a 68-yard touchdown to the house early in the first, followed by a three-yard run by Damien Wiseman with 5:17 left in the second half.
Taking the kickoff to their own 41 in the second half, Nokomis pounded the ball down the middle of the field, alternating between their two senior running backs Ryan Janssen and Adam Lyons for the most part.
Janssen would get the call on third and goal from the one, picking up his ninth touchdown of the season to make it 14-7 after Jeremy Brown's extra point kick.
The Oilers seemed prepared to march back the other direction, going to Newberry three times for 36 yards. But on second and 14, Beachum's pass was deflected and picked off by Tosetti at the Nokomis 35 to turn the momentum back to the Redskins' favor.
Nokomis marched to the EAWR 13, but were stopped there, turning the ball over on downs with 9:23 to play in the fourth quarter. The Oilers gave the ball right back, fumbling on their first play, with Derick Bell recovering the football.
Again though, the Redskins came up short despite good field position, running four plays for two yards before turning the ball over on downs. Nokomis' defense was up to the task though, holding the Oilers to six plays before they punted the ball back to Nokomis and set up Tosetti and Engelman's heroics a few moments later.
While the 50-yard gain was the talk of the game, Nokomis did most of their damage on the ground, picking up 196 yards on 49 carries. Adam Lyons had 95 of those yards on 21 carries, while Ryan Janssen had 55 on 19 carries. Landon Engelman (four carries, 37 yards) and Alex Tosetti (five carries, nine yards) rounded out the rushing.
Defensively, Quentin Jamieson and Janssen led the team in tackles with 11 each, while Derick Bell and Gavin Vincent finished with eight and six respectively.
Now 6-2 on the year and winners of their last five, Nokomis will end the regular season against Colfax-Ridgeview, who is 2-6 on the season. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26, in Nokomis.
October 18 at Wood River
Nokomis (6-2) 0 0 7 8 15
EAWR (4-4) 7 7 0 0 14
1st: EAWR - Brody Newberry 68-yard run (Nick Ellis kick)
2nd: EAWR - Damien Wiseman 3-yard run (Nick Ellis kick)
3rd: Nokomis - Ryan Janssen 1-yard run (Jeremy Brown kick)
4th: Nokomis - Alex Tosetti 50-yard pass to Connor Engelman (Alex Tosetti pass to Adam Lyons)
Passing: Alex Tosetti 2-5-53, 1 TD, 3 INT.
Rushing: Adam Lyons 21-95, Ryan Janssen 19-55, Landon Engelman 4-37, Alex Tosetti 5-9.
Receiving: Landon Engelman 1-50, Adam Lyons 1-3.
Defense (Solo/Assists): Quentin Jamieson 9/2; Ryan Janssen 10/1; Derick Bell 5/3, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery; Gavin Vincent 1/5; Connor Overby 1/4; Dylan Hayes 3/2; Koster Cook 2/3, 1 sack; Nolan Ernst 0/3; Isaac Satterlee 1/2; Braeston Brummet 1/2; Adam Lyons 0/2; Alex Tosetti 0/2, 1 INT; Tanner Woolard 0/1.