Knights come from behind to record first football win

Dakota Hammond caught a pass for a Kingsland first down against Cotter. CHRISTINE VREEMAN/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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The Kingsland football team got over the hump and picked up its first win of the season on the road, beating Winona Cotter 33-30 on Friday night.

It wasn’t easy as the Knights fell behind early in the game 30-6. Second half adjustments and hard work got the Knights back into the ballgame late in the game. With two games left to go in the regular season, the Knights are 1-5 overall (1-4 sub-district).

“Early on in the game, we didn’t align properly on defense and didn’t control the line of scrimmage,” said head coach Brent Stinson. “Their running back probably had close to 200 yards by halftime. Cotter had one of their senior guards return on the offensive line and it showed. They came out and were very physical.

“We made some nice adjustments along the interior of the defensive line and focused on what we’d been practicing all week,” Stinson added. “We also had to take advantage of some matchups we knew we could exploit when we had the ball. We couldn’t make any more mistakes and we kept climbing.”

Stinson said the battle came down to controlling the line of scrimmage better after halftime. The line of scrimmage has been a focus in practice for the last three weeks for Kingsland. The improvement began during a particularly physical practice session on Wednesday.

“We had a very physical practice and our B team pushed the varsity to their limit,” Stinson recalled. “We had some unhappy players there at practice and we told them this is what the varsity will see on Friday night against Cotter. We have to stay together, fix what needs fixing, and keep playing.

“Offensively, we began picking up some of the blitzes they were doing,” he added. “We also had better playmakers on the outside and were able to establish some things through the middle of the field. They came out fast early on, which we knew they would do because it was their Homecoming.”

The Knights finished the game with 337 yards in total offense, with 213 of that coming through the air. William Jahn went five of nine for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Nick Ramaker also hit five of nine passes for 91 yards, completing one two-point conversion pass. Kingsland added a combined 34 rushes for 124 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Dallas Jones was a workhorse, rushing 16 times for 104 yards and three touchdowns.

“One of the best things about coaching has to do with something Don Meyer, former men’s basketball coach at Northern State (Aberdeen, South Dakota) said,” Stinson recalled. “When you see a group of individuals come together as a team and accomplish some goals, that’s what coaching is about. To me, that was the most important part of Friday night. We put aside personal glory, came together for team glory, and stayed the course.”

Catching passes downfield was a group effort for the Knights’ wide receivers. Reid Kruegel caught three passes for 58 yards. Lucas Howard added two catches for 63 yards, while Reed Merkel caught two passes for 43 yards and one TD.

“We were bitten by the injury bug on Friday night,” Stinson said. “We lost one of our starters in our junior wide receiver/defensive back, Ashton Kohn. He ended up having a dislocated shoulder and ended the night with his arm in a sling and will stay there for three weeks.”

After a slow start to the first quarter, Stinson said they played three excellent quarters of football. The team members were very excited that all the work they put in to get ready for the season finally paid off in a win. It’s going to take four good quarters of football in their next game at home against state-ranked Goodhue for the Kingsland Senior Night and Parents’ Night celebration. Goodhue handed Rushford-Peterson its first loss of the season on Friday night, 14-7.

“(Coach) Tony Poncelet does a good job of getting those kids ready to go,” Stinson said. “They don’t do a lot of different things, but what they do, they do very well. These kids are very strong up front. Several of them wrestle, they also are very good at basketball, and made the state football tournament last season.

“They’re very physical at the point of attack,” he said. “They going to try to take away and squeeze in on everything you want to do offensively. You’ll need to win some matchups on the edges and catch them off guard to have some success. We’re only focusing in on what we can control and everything else will fall into place.

“We’re also really excited to honor our seniors, our parents, and their combined commitment to the program,” Stinson said.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Friday night, Oct. 12. It’s the final home game of the regular season as the Knights finish the schedule at Hayfield on Wednesday night, Oct. 17.