Knox Breaks Into Win Column at Beloit
The Prairie Fire had a strong first half never looked back in a 31-21 Midwest Conference victory at Beloit College on October 12.
Knox earned its first win under coach Damon Tomeo after dropping four games by 10 or fewer points. The key was 21 points the Prairie Fire scored in the first half and an effective ground game. Knox had been outscored 83-13 in the first two quarters going into the game against the Buccaneers.
The Prairie Fire (1-5, 1-4 MWC) changed that by scoring first on a Beloit turnover and adding a pair of rushing touchdowns for a 21-7 halftime lead.
Sophomore defensive back Chris Wozny (Omaha, NE, Millard South) put Knox up 7-0 when he recovered a fumble and ran it back 34 yards, followed by the extra point kick from senior Phil Tallman (Park Ridge, IL, Maine South) 53 seconds into the game.
Sophomore quarterback Luke Oosterbaan (Palos Heights, IL, Marist) capped a 13-play, 48-yard drive with a 3-yard run for a 14-0 Prairie Fire lead with 8:13 remaining in the second quarter.
Beloit (1-5, 1-4 MWC) trimmed the deficit to 14-7 on a 9-yard touchdown through the air a little over 4:00 later.
Knox grabbed the momentum back on Oosterbaan's second rushing touchdown, a 7-yard score with 2:43 before the break that extended the lead to 21-7 after Tallman connected on his third extra point kick. Oosterbaan busted loose for a 68-yard run on the first play of the drive that moved the football from the Knox 25 yard line to the Beloit 7. The 68-yard rush is tied for the fifth-longest run from scrimmage by a Knox quarterback.
Senior tailback Derek Mortensen (Crystal Lake, IL, Crystal Lake South), a week after becoming the all-time career rushing yards leader at Knox, gave the visitors a 28-7 lead on a 2-yard run into the end zone – his sixth rushing touchdown of the season – with 9:09 in the third quarter.
The Buccaneers answered with a 33-yard rushing touchdown at the 5:54 mark of the third quarter to cut the Prairie Fire advantage to 28-14.
Knox turned to Tallman for a 23-yard field goal, which he sank for a 31-14 lead with 5:31 left in the contest, after the offense put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ate up more than 8:00.
Beloit put the final points on the board 2:17 later on an 8-yard pass play for a touchdown. An onside kick by the Bucs that followed was unsuccessful and the Prairie Fire ran out the clock on six straight running plays, including one for 15 yards by Mortensen on a third down and six from the Beloit 38 yard line that sealed the win.
Knox rushed for a season-high 278 yards as both Oosterbaan and Mortensen topped 100 yards on the ground. Oosterbaan ran for a career-high 131 yards (tied for #4 all-time by a quarterback) and two TDs (tied for #2 all-time by a quarterback) while Mortensen added 114 yards and a score.
Oosterbaan also completed 11-of-15 passes for 98 yards and one interception as the Prairie Fire generated 376 total yards of offense and allowed 304.
Sophomore Mathew Hemmingsen (Portland, OR, Carl Sandburg College) had his biggest receiving game to date with two catches for 43 yards. Sophomore Jordan Zanger (Quincy, IL, Quincy) chipped in with four catches and 29 yards.
Tallman had a strong day kicking and punting for Knox. He was 4-for-4 on extra point attempts, kicked a field goal, and his three punts – two inside the 20 yard line -- averaged 40.7 yards.
Senior linebacker Tom Discher (Woodstock, IL, Woodstock) led the Prairie Fire defense with nine tackles and two sacks. Fellow senior linebacker Matt Hendrick (Smithton, IL, Freeburg) had nine tackles, including one for a loss.