Under the lights in their homecoming game, the Randolph Rockets came out on top after a physical and tiring game against Kenyon-Wanamingo.
Seemingly gassed late in the third quarter on, the Rockets never trailed but couldn’t quite put the Knights away.
On fourth down, the crowd and Rockets sideline had gone mostly quiet. The Klahr Field PA said if you haven’t made any noise this game, now would be a great time to do so.
With the clock closing in on the final two minutes of the game, Berg heaved a desperation throw deep down the sideline for Tyler Craig.
Craig dove for the ball, had it in his arms, but had the ball bounce free upon hitting the ground simultaneously. If the catch had been made, the Knights very well could have scored, needing an onside kick and another touchdown to win.
“They are a good team and people can't sleep on them,” Randolph head coach Mike Schmidt said about the Knights. “I think they are going to win some games this year and have a good season.”
The Rockets, having a good season of their own, won their fourth straight game to open the season with a 32-21 win over the Knights, the first time the team has done so since 2014 when the Rockets began 5-0.
Everything looked business as usual for the pass-heavy Rocket offense to begin the game. Isaac Stoesz took a screen pass from Nick Drinken 58 yards for a touchdown on the first offensive play of the game for the Rockets. Then on the team’s second drive, Drinken hit a wide-open AJ Weidner in the corner of the end zone. The Rockets’ second drive was set up by a Weidner interception.
A 14-0 lead early in the game had the Knights on their heels a bit.
“We didn't necessarily expect it to go for a touchdown,” Schmidt said of the screen to Stoesz. “Any play you draw up, the expectation is if everyone does their job you can score on any play. We weren't surprised getting it in Isaac's hands that he could make a play like that. Definitely a great way to start the game.
“AJ stepped up for us with a couple of big plays,” Schmidt added on Weidner’s play. “He had a nice interception. He played like a senior who was playing his last homecoming game.”
The Knights responded with a long, nearly 10-minute drive that took the remainder of the first quarter and into the second.
Inside the 10-yard line, the Rocket defense stepped up, allowing no positive yardage and picking off Knights quarterback Luke Berg in the end zone.
The Knights finally got on the board with 5 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the first half. Bray Olson caught a screen pass and ran 45 yards for the score.
In the final minutes of the second quarter, the two teams exchanged turnovers that somehow led to no points.
Drinken completed a pass to Stoesz over the middle of the field. Stoesz was then greeted by a pair of defenders and the big Rocket receiver fumbled the ball right into Tate Erlandson’s hands.
The Knights’ ensuing drive led to nothing and the Rockets looked to redeem themselves. On the 15-yard line, the Rockets coughed up the ball, again recovered by the Knights. However, two plays later, Ehleringer picked off Berg with 14 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Knights defense held Randolph’s normally high-flying offense to 154 total yards in the first half, but the Rockets executed better in the second half and managed to hold off the Knights.
The two early touchdowns by the Rockets proved to be the difference as the Knights got within a touchdown from either tying or taking the lead three times.
“There's a lot we have to clean up,” Schmidt said. “I don't think we executed great at times, but we were able to do enough to get the job done at the end of the day.”
Randolph (4-0) next battles Class A No. 3-ranked-Blooming Prairie (4-0) on the road. The Friday, Sept. 27 matchup with a be yet another tough test for the Rockets.
“Obviously it's going to be a tough test,” Schmidt said. “We'll watch film a little bit tonight and tomorrow and put a game plan together. ... You can't worry about them being No. 3 in the state. We just have to do what we can.”
Kenyon-Wanamingo (2-2) returns home to face Bethlehem Academy (1-3) on Sept. 27.