It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Nokomis football team is going to run the ball, but the Dupo coaching staff got to see it firsthand last week when the Redskins took on Madison. So when the Tigers came to Nokomis on April 16, they knew what they wanted to do.
“At the beginning, they were shutting down our jet and shutting down our off-tackle stuff, but they were leaving our passing game wide open,” Nokomis Coach Paul Watson said about the early moments of Friday’s game. “After we hit a few of those, they started sucking back in and that allowed us to do what we do.”
And this season, what the Redskins “do” is win, which was the case on Friday as Nokomis ran for 355 yards on just 29 carries in a 52-14 thrashing of 2-3 Dupo.
It wasn’t just the number of yards the Redskins accumulated, but the way they did it. Nokomis’ rushing game had been impressive in its first four games, averaging just over 320 yards per game, with an average rush of 6.2 yards per carry, but on Friday, they showed that they had the ability to break the big one as well. Four of their five touchdowns were 47 yards or more, with the outlier a 16-yard run by Jake Watson in the fourth quarter.
Landon Engelman had three of those big runs, nearly going untouched on touchdown scores of 52, 87 and 67 yards. Adding in 34 receiving yards, 57 yards on a kickoff return and 12 more on his sixth interception of the season, Engelman finished the game with 322 yards, 219 of which came in the running game on just eight carries.
“We’ve been working different drills to get him running the way he can run, and he showed that tonight,” Watson said of Engelman. “When he gets his shoulders over his toes, he’s hard to stop.”
Engelman’s first touchdown came in the second series for the Redskins, after Jake Johnson scored on a 24-yard pass from quarterback Connor Overby in the opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. It looked as if Nokomis might have trouble with the Tiger defense as they faced third-and-nine four plays into the series, but Engelman busted through the middle and sprinted 52-yards for his first of three scores.
The 13 early points would nearly be enough for the Nokomis defense, which ran it’s scoreless quarter streak to 11 before two late scores by Dupo on the Nokomis JV squad. Still, the Redskins didn’t let up as they needed just three plays to get their third touchdown of the first quarter, which came on a short, quick pass by Overby to Cooper Bertolino, who scored from 26 yards out.
“We do that quick to the tight end with no motion and they’re so used to the motion coming, you catch them on their heels a little bit. Especially on first down where it’s not a passing down and they’re not expecting it,” Watson said of the play that gave his team a 21-0 lead with two minutes to play in the opening frame.
Dupo would have some success going to the air on offense to start the second quarter. They first downs on a 13-yard pass to Logan Stevens and an 11-yard run by quarterback C.J. Robinson, but two unsuccessful plays later Robinson tried to go deep and found Engelman instead of his intended target.
The interception gave Nokomis good field position, and eight plays later, Overby completed his third touchdown pass of the night, finding Johnson for a second time on a 23-yard strike. While the running game is the sundae for the Redskins, Overby’s play at quarterback has been the cherry on top as the junior is an amazingly efficient 18-for-22 for 229 yards, including a 4-for-4 107-yard performance against Dupo.
If the game began to feel like it was getting away from the Tigers as they found themselves down 27-0 with 5:50 to play in the first half, the sense of doom only got stronger when Johnson picked off Robinson for Nokomis’ second interception of the game. Overby would be sacked for a seven yard loss on the first play after the pick, but in an almost cruel twist, Engelman got the ball next and ran untouched through a hole near the Nokomis sideline for an 87-yard score.
“Those guys up front did a heck of a job, then we had downfield blocking from our outside receivers and our wings. We just executed,” Watson said.
Dupo would drive down to the Nokomis 25 just before the quarter ended but four straight incompletions meant the Redskins would remain ahead by 33 points at halftime.
With both sides of the ball going strong, Nokomis kept Dupo off the board to start the third quarter, forcing the Tigers to turn the ball over on downs at the Nokomis 30 after a 12-play drive that ate more than seven minutes off the clock. The Redskins would make up for lost time as Engelman scored on a 67 yard run just three plays into the drive, making it a 39-0 ball game after the missed two-point conversion.
While they briefly avoided the running clock, the Tigers would not be so lucky for too long. They’d go four-and-out after getting the ball back and Matt Hill broke a long run of his own on the first play after the turnover on downs. Hill’s 47-yard run made it 45-0 and invoked the mercy rule for the rest of the game.
Nokomis would tack on another touchdown on Watson’s run, which was set up by a 25-yard scamper by Hill early in the fourth quarter, before the Redskins called off the dogs and sent in the underclassmen.
Even though the two late scores had no effect on the end result, they still seemed to annoy the varsity defenders, who were hoping for a third straight shutout. That annoyance shows that the Redskins aren’t just satisfied with wins this season, but are in pursuit of something bigger.
With no playoffs, a conference title in the small school division of the Cahokia Conference has been the goal since day one. To achieve it, they’ll have to beat Red Bud, who is 4-1, with their only loss coming against large school Columbia 47-0 in week one. Since then, they’re 4-0, with wins over Carlyle, Madison, Dupo and Wesclin by a combined score of 166 to 40. Against the same four teams, Nokomis has scored 164 points and given up 28.
“They’re big and physical. It’s going to be a good game. They’ll give us everything they got,” Watson said of the Musketeers from 110 miles away.
And odds are that they’ll get everything Nokomis has in return.
April 16 at Nokomis
Dupo (2-3) 0 0 0 14 14
Nokomis (5-0) 21 12 12 7 52
1st - 7:54 - Nokomis - Connor Overby 24-yard pass to Jake Johnson (Landon Engelman kick)
1st - 4:29 - Nokomis - Landon Engelman 52-yard run (kick failed)
1st - 1:56 - Nokomis - Connor Overby 26-yard pass to Cooper Bertolino (Connor Overby pass to Jake Johnson)
2nd - 5:50 - Nokomis - Connor Overby 23-yard pass to Jake Johnson (run failed)
2nd - 2:33 - Nokomis - Landon Engelman 87-yard run (pass failed)
3rd - 3:35 - Nokomis - Landon Engelman 67-yard run (pass failed)
3rd - 2:30 - Nokomis - Matt Hill 47-yard run (kick failed)
4th - 9:00 - Nokomis - Jake Watson 16-yard run (Landon Engelman kick)
4th - 7:22 - Camden Biggs 90-yard run (Jacob Taylor kick)
4th - 0:28 - C.J. Robinson 18-yard pass to Logan Stevens (Jacob Taylor kick)
Passing (4-4-107): Connor Overby 4-4-107, 3 TD.
Rushing (29-355): Landon Engelman 8-219, 2 TD; Matt Hill 5-77, 1 TD; Jake Watson 5-24, 1 TD; Jake Johnson 4-14; Connor Overby 4-13; Skylar Pavolko 1-8; Craig Bertolino 2-0.
Receiving (4-107): Jake Johnson 2-47, 2 TD; Landon Engelman 1-34; Cooper Bertolino 1-26, 1 TD.
Defense (solo/assists): Dylan Hayes 2/8; Isaac Satterlee 4/5; Matt Hill 1/7; Jake Johnson 3/4, 1 INT; Craig Bertolino 1/5; Landon Engelman 4/2 1 INT; Connor Overby 3/2; Cooper Bertolino 0/2; Braeston Brummet 0/2; Ryan Eisenbarth 0/2; Skylar Pavolko 0/1; Kolin Reynolds 0/1; Mason Morris 0/1; Tanner Woolard 0/1; Wyatt Dooley 0/1; Braxston Taylor 0/1; Jake Watson 0/1.