An all-out attack was coming. For a few weeks, the Knights had done what they could to shore up the sides, but the levy broke this time.
Rushers were coming in from the left, right, and suddenly the center as well.
There wasn’t much that junior kicker, Simon Wagner could do. He was zeroed in on his kick, and as soon as it left his foot, a sickening thud echoed in his ears, and throughout the Carroll Athletic Field.
Atlantic’s kick defense had put a bull-rush on the Knights and overwhelmed them. The point after touchdown attempt was blocked, and Kuemper trailed 10-6 in what would prove to be the last score of the first half.
“That blocked kick was huge,” said Chad Klein, the Kuemper Catholic head football coach. “That’s just part of the game. You have to go after and get every point. We just got caught on the inside during that attempt. Teams had been pressuring us off the edge all year. I don’t know what happened there, we’ll have to diagnose that on film. They just brought in more guys than we could block, and they blocked the kick. We can’t let those things happen.”
The game stood still through most of the third quarter, until 19 seconds remained, and the Knights fell victim to an 80-yard touchdown run by Atlantic’s speedster Tyler Moen.
The fourth quarter came and the Knights had to respond. Down 17-6, there was no question on what needed to happen. The Knights had to move down field.
They did. Runs by Kyle Berg and quarterback Cole Collison provided the Knights with large swatches of land down field.
Inside Atlantic’s redzone the Knights went to the air where Collison connected with tight end Blaise Gunnerson on a 16-yard score.
Worried about another blocked kick, the Knights opted to go for two, but the run was stopped inches short of the goal line.
There was still more tan 10 minutes left in the game, and Kuemper seemed not to panic.
Even as Atlantic went on a nearly seven minute drive, the Knights took their lumps, but kept their goal clear. Atlantic was kept out of the end zone and settled for a 29-yard field goal with 3:22 left in the game.
With that the Trojans took a 20-12 lead. The Knights weren’t panicked.
Instead they went back to the attack. Big gains were made, and with just over 30 seconds left in the game Collison took a quarterback sneak past the goal line, his second touchdown off his feet, in the game.
The Knights trailed by just two points. One two point conversion was needed.
From the two yard line, the Knights dialed up a sweep and gave the ball to Kyle Berg. Much like Wagner was earlier, he was inundated with white jerseys. There was no where to go. Atlantic made the stop and held onto a heart-breaking 20-18 win in Carroll.
“The kids didn’t give up,” Klein said. “They were frustrated tonight. We did a lot of things to hurt ourselves in the game. We have to overcome those things. We have to overcome those things. Half the teams in the state are going to lose tonight, we have to remember that.”
Starting the district play with a loss isn’t what Kuemper had expected, but they know they did drop one last year.
“We lost one district game last year, and still ended up as district champions,” Klein said. “We need to come together and find a way to bond as a team.”
Klein said the ability to move on from the loss relies on the coaching staff. They need to coach their players to fight through the next four weeks and continue to work towards a district championship.
“We have to go back and work,” Klein said. “I have a saying that I tell the team all the time, ‘a great-white shark doesn’t take a day off, it wakes up on a Monday morning and finds something to eat.’ That’s what we got to do, we have to go out and find ways to win.”
Coillison completed 11 of 24 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 56 yards in the game and two touchdowns.
Berg finished with 63 yards rushing. Chad Martin had 24 yards off two carries.
Tre Knobbe caught three catches for 45 yards. Gunnerson had 24 yards receiving. Truman Haukap added 23 yards off two catches. Jake Hugeback had 17 yards off two catches and Dawson Edwards finished with 15 yards off a pair of catches.
Connor Stoelk finished with a team-high 10.5 tackles. John Mayhall finished with 6.5 tackles. Berg finished with six tackles. Riley Healy had 5.5 tackles. Cal Wanninger, Michael Horbach and Gunnerson all had three tackles each.
The Knights will travel to Jefferson to play Greene County this weekend.