It was that time of year once again; the air had a crispness to it, a gentle breeze heralded the eventual coming of the winter month, and the trees around the Knox College campus were aflame with hues of red, orange and yellow everywhere you looked. All over the lawns of the school, alumni had returned to their alma mater to recall the good old days. The Knox College Prairie Fire (2-6, 3-6) did battle at the newly christened Knosher Bowl, facing off against the Foresters of Lake Forest College (3-5, 3-6) in an effort to close out the home season with a win and give all those that came before them a good memory to go home to.
The day started off quickly, after a ceremony to officially dedicate the Bowl to Coach Harley Knosher, as Lake Forest started on their own 29 and drove swiftly down the field to the end zone in about two and a half minutes. The Foresters’ spread offense, coupled with a very talented receiving corps, went to work quickly, and took the lead, 7-0. Knox, though, would have none of it. After a great return past the 40, sophomore quarterback Bill Meyer marshaled his squad quickly (for Knox at least) down the field in less than five minutes, and junior tailback Brent Newman punched it in from five yards out for the touchdown. With senior Jack Dippold’s kick, the game was tied up as the period closed out.
The second quarter opened with Knox in possession once again, after the Foresters turned it over on downs in a gutsy but foolish play, and once again, Meyer and his men took it to the Foresters hard. Meyer had probably his most surgical day under center, as he went 5-10 for 87 yards, and two touchdowns, both of which came in an explosive second quarter. On this the opening drive of the quarter, he connected with junior wide receiver Evan Massey for a seven yard score, making it 14-7. The defense came to play, too, and on the ensuing drive, the Prairie Fire allowed only five yards, forcing the punt. Throughout the game, the front seven of Knox caused absolute hell for the Forester quarterback, as senior end Tighe Burke pulled him down twice, and added a couple more tackles. Junior linebacker Blaine Murphy added another, and freshman defensive end Elliot Madison added another, for a total of four on the day—Senior defensive tackle Chris Johnson was an absolute horror for the Forester’s quarterback, not netting any sacks, but giving him a full plate throughout the day, making sure nothing was easy.
The Foresters were able to force a punt on Knox’s next possession, but their quarterback, under pressure throughout the day, was rushed, and tossed an interception grabbed by a defensive lineman, senior Derek Knobeloch. This set up the Prairie Fire with great field position, and they made great use of it. With 34 yards to the endzone, Meyer decided to get it done right then, with a missile right to Massey, who took it to the house. It was one of the quickest drives of the year for the Prairie Fire, and the Foresters were stunned, to say the least. They had no time to do anything as the clock ran out on the Foresters, and the half closed out, 21-7, Knox firmly in command, the alumni happy, and the crowd louder than it has been in a while.
The third quarter opened with energy throughout the Prairie Fire sideline, as Lake Forest continued to stumble. Knox started with the ball, but Meyer made a misjudgment of a route, and tossed up a pick to give the ball over to Lake Forest. Then, the Foresters’ playmaker, wide receiver Dan Carter, remembered what he was good, at it seems, and three plays later, he was dancing a little jig in the end zone. Carter ended with 167 receiving yards and three touchdowns, all in the second half, and was one of the most impressive guys out there all game.
After the score by the Foresters, consternation could be felt by the crowd, as the Fire led by only seven. This would not hold for very long though, and though the offense was forced to give the ball back, the defense held, and after another punt, Knox had a classic grinding drive, giving the defense all they could handle as they traversed the length of the field on about five and a half minutes, and senior running back Grant Guimond rammed it in from two yards out to increase the lead by two scores once again, 28-14. From here, the Prairie Fire began to roll, forcing another punt, and taking it to the house again in only four plays to run the toll to 35-14. A field goal by Jack Dippold late in the fourth quarter made it 38-21 after Carter made a couple of spectacular catches, and again to run it to 27-38 after a missed point after attempt, but after Knox’s fifth touchdown of the day, it was effectively sealed. It was Knox’s highest scoring total of the year, and possibly the most pleasing win of the year, as well.
“We’ve consistently gotten better as a team every week,” said Knox head coach Andy Gibbons. “I’ll give a lot of credit to the offense. Evan Massey came up big, and look at Bill Meyer, with 140 yards and give some credit to the offensive line. We have three seniors, Bradley Becque, Lucas Leckrone, and Kevin Thomas.”
Indeed, the offensive line is the backbone of any great team, and this performance was no different. As for the defense, which played stellar for the first three quarters, Gibbons was happy about that as well.
“We played good defense,” Gibbons said. “They got two easy scores near the end, which I’m not too happy about. Their wide receiver was incredible. Tighe Burke, though, no doubt – what he did was amazing. Two sacks, two tackles for loss, and coming in and giving us a lift on offense.”
Besides destroying the quarterback, Burke also played fullback on short yardage situations, which has become a new wrinkle in Knox’s offense.
“It was a total team effort,” said senior defensive lineman Chris Johnson. “Everyone came to play, and everyone got involved, including the sidelines and the crowd. It was so much fun. It was my last game in the Bowl, and I enjoyed it.”
In regards to the win, junior Blaine Murphy agreed with Johnson.
“I thought for once we finally played an entire game as a team,” he said. “I knew before the game we were going to play incredible.”
Murphy enjoyed the turnout with all the alumni in the stands, as did the whole team.
“It feels better to play in front of a big crowd,” Murphy said. “When you make a play or a big hit, there’s a real reaction. The crowd helps us so much, when they scored on us, we were able to take it right back to them.”
It was a glorious time for these men of the midfield, and as everyone left, the public address announcer let them all know what was coming up, just eighteen miles down the road.
It is that time of year again, as the Prairie Fire of Knox participate in their yearly contest against their archrivals, the Fighting Scots of Monmouth College in the ancient Turkey Bowl. It is the sixth longest rivalry in the country, and no less heated than HarvardYale or CalStanford.
“It’s the last game of the year, the biggest one,” Gibbons said. “We just can’t give up easy scores like we did this weekend. They’re going to the playoffs, and we’re hoping to finish strong.”
Murphy added his own two cents about the Monmouth game.
“It’s the game for the Turkey,” he said. “I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be pumped. I don’t have any doubt we’re going to win. Any given Saturday, you know, anyone can win.”
Johnson was similarly pumped up about the game versus the Fighting Scots.
“Its my last Knox/Monmouth game,” he said. “We have a legitimate chance to win. I’m just happy to be able to contribute so much.”
Though Monmouth is undefeated in conference play, one recalls several other undefeated teams going down to supposedly inferior opponents, such as the New England Patriots to the New York Giants, USC to Oregon State, and etc. Truly, it is a momentous occasion, and after last weekend’s domination, the Prairie Fire are blazing. Hop a bus, hitchhike, ride a unicycle, pogo stick if you have to, but get over to Woll Field on Saturday at 1 p.m., and give those Fighting Scots a little Knox flavor.
“We’re getting better as the year progresses,” Gibbons said. “It’s a real mark of the character of this team.”