Fresh off last week’s loss to Central A&M, the Nokomis football team could have folded up shop when they found themselves down 20-6 at halftime on Friday, Sept. 10’s game against East Alton-Wood River.
Instead, the Redskins put together a dominating effort in the second half and improved to 2-1 on the season with a 24-20 victory over the Oilers.
East Alton-Wood River got on the board first after both teams turned the ball over in their first drives (the Oilers on a fumble and Nokomis on downs).
With both teams focusing on the ground, the quarter went fast and only 3:41 was left on the clock when Seth Slayden scored from four yards out to give the Oilers a 6-0 lead.
Nokomis put together a scoring drive of their own, but it was bittersweet as all-state running back Landon Engelman left the game early in the drive with a broken arm. Engelman had surgery to repair multiple fractures on Saturday and will be on the sideline for the rest of his senior year.
The fact that the rally took place 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 all the more impressive.
But before the three-touchdown rally, the Redskins scored for the first time on a Connor Overby 8-yard run that tied the game at 6-6.
The Skins then intercepted a pass by Oiler quarterback Chase Keshner, but were unable to capitalize and punted the ball away with 6:39 left in the first half.
After limiting the Oilers of any big play opportunities in the first quarter and a half, the visitors broke free once they got the ball back, with Seth Slayden scoring from 37 yards out with 5:54 on the clock.
The Oilers’ 14-6 lead increased by six before the quarter ended as an interception and a six-play, 35 yard drive culminated in a Keshner two-yard touchdown to make it 20-6.
Down, but not out, Nokomis went to work in the second half. Connor Overby gave the Redskins good field position with a kick return to the Nokomis 45 to start the third quarter, then Jake Johnson scored six plays later on a 24-yard run.
The Oilers got the ball to midfield after the ensuing kickoff, but faced a 4th-and-1 from the 49. Getting a big push up the middle, the Nokomis line met halfback Kiyu Stilts just behind the line of scrimmage and dropped the 5’8” sophomore for a one-yard loss.
Nokomis would face two fourth downs of their own in the ensuing drive, but fared much better than their counterparts. On 4th-and-1 from the 12, Jake Watson plunged ahead for a two-yard gain deep into Oiler territory for a first down.
Three plays later, Nokomis was in worse shape, facing a 4th-and-14 after a delay of game. 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 cut the EAWR lead to 20-18.
On the kickoff, Nokomis covered the return well, halting the Oilers at their own 18, but gave up a personal foul on the next play as EAWR moved the ball out to the 35. Two double digit runs by the visitors gave them two first downs and the ball at the 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 injured himself on the play. Facing 3rd-and-17 with backup Kenny Morton now in the shotgun, the Oilers opted to pass and the Redskins made them pay as they triple covered the intended receiver and picked off Morton’s attempt.
With a personal foul on the oilers moving Nokomis to the EAWR 31, the Redskin running game continued to make strides. Jake Watson broke a run three plays in for a 13-yard gain, then Jake Johnson posted 13 more yards on a bruising touchdown run that saw him bulldoze an Oiler defender en route to the end zone.
The two-point conversion failed, but Nokomis now held the lead, 24-20, with 7:43 to play.
Things went from bad to worse for the Oilers in a hurry as they tried to run up the middle on their first offensive play after Johnson’s touchdown. Like a greased pig, the ball squirted out of the running back’s hands and ahead several yards, where Nolan Ernst dove on it for a fumble recovery.
From there, the Redskins commenced with the systematic destruction of the remaining seven minutes and 23 seconds of game clock and the Oilers’ hopes of a comeback.
Three different times Nokomis faced fourth down in the final drive and all three times they emerged with first downs. One came after a hard count drew the Oilers offsides on 4th-and-4, while Watson plowed ahead for five yards on another on 4th-and-3 after EAWR tried to salvage some clock by taking two timeouts.
The third fourth down conversion was the dagger. On 4th-and-5, Johnson broke a 20-yarder that nearly put the senior into the end zone. He’d come up three-yards short, but the run meant that the Oilers wouldn’t have enough time for a comeback, even on a Hail Mary.
All told, Nokomis rushed for 262 yards on 56 carries, with Jake Watson and Jake Johnson picking up the slack 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 an interception, a fumble recovery and a pair of tackles, while Isaac Satterlee also had a pick and two tackles. Kaden Cook recovered a fumble as well 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 position to enter next Friday’s homecoming game against Litchfield with momentum toward win number three.
September 10 at Nokomis
EAWR (1-2) 6 14 0 0 20
Nokomis (2-1) 0 6 12 6 24
1st - 3:41 - (E) - Seth Slayden 4-yard TD run (kick failed)
2nd - 9:59 - (N) - Connor Overby 8-yard TD run (2pt. conversion failed)
2nd - 5:54 - (E) - Seth Slayden 37-yard TD run (2pt. conversion)
2nd - 0:23 - (E) Chase Keshner 2-yard TD run (kick failed)
3rd - 9:44 - (N) - Jake Johnson 24-yard run (2pt. conversion failed)
3rd - 1:04 - (N) - Jake Johnson 9-yard TD reception from Connor Overby (2pt. conversion failed)
4th - 7:43 - (N) - Jake Johnson 13-yard TD run (2pt. conversion failed)
Passing (1-2-9): Connor Overby 1-2-9, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Rushing (56-262): Jake Watson 27-135; Jake Johnson 13-80, 2 TD; Landon Engelman 2-24; Connor Overby 7-16; Isaac Satterlee 7-7.
Receiving (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; Tanner 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.