The two sides seemed even in the first half. If anything the game reeked of potential overtime, reminiscent of the regular season matchup between the Knox College Prairie Fire and the Carroll University Pioneers.
Jorge Prats field was packed for the second straight day. It was tough to see through the crowd on the sidelines, which at some points went three or four rows deep.
An interesting hodge podge of Knox community members showed up. The crowd was rowdy as always. It was just strange to have our loveable liberal arts hooligans screaming their lungs out next to a collection of faculty and staff. Despite their presence, there seemed to be little self censorship from the more volatile fans.
By halftime people had curled around the gate behind the goal nearest to campus. There was energy. There was intensity. There was a notable lack of bleachers.
A school administrator walked up to myself and a group of my friends and asked us to step behind the yellow rope. According to the administrator, there should have been 20 feet between the fans and the field. Most fans were within tripping distance of the widest playing midfielders.
Now that the scene has been set a little bit, back to the game. After a back and forth first half the second kicked off seemingly in Carroll’s favor. Senior goalkeeper Sean Dockrell made a heroic effort to keep his domain safe.
Our substitutes, usually a sparkplug for the Prarie Fire, struggled to retain possession or make forward progress up the field. Switching halves threw us against the wind when we needed it most to carry longballs from the back line up the field.
What may have been a few minutes of sustained Carroll attacks felt like hours on the sideline. After a few corner kicks in a row for the Pioneers there was a sense of urgency developing within the crowd.
It was a corner kick within the last five minutes that sealed our fate. The players looked spent, or demoralized or maybe a bit of both. Unfortunately, unable to respond with time expiring, Knox conceded their first home loss of the season.
They rallied a campus for a Friday morning playoff game. They grew as a team and as men in front of our very eyes.
Our most sincere farewells and thank yous to seniors Dockrell and Jacob Polay, who saw this team grow from a dud to a regular season conference champion.
With nine starters returning, including the leading scorer in the Midwest Conference junior Nathaniel Logie. The tickets are all but punched to the tournament next year.