In the final tuneup for the Class 11AAA playoffs next week, the O’Gorman Knights turned in a disciplined and steady effort in defeating Lincoln 34-7 at McEneaney Field.
It was just the sort of win you want to take with you into the playoffs. Good offense, good defense and a field goal kicker who puts you up 6-0 when the first two drives bog down. Everything was working pretty well the entire 48 minutes.
“Our defense was just incredible – I was so proud of our guys,” said linebacker Billy Daniel, who had 16 total tackles to lead O’Gorman. “Hunter Thompson played out of his mind – two interceptions – it was just a great effort.”
The Knights used a few long drives, three interceptions and the occasional long touchdown to keep the Patriots down. The Pats had opportunities early to grab a piece of momentum while the game was still in doubt but never quite pulled it off.
It was not official but O’Gorman (7-2) is assuming it earned the third-seed and will face Aberdeen Central at home in the first round of the 11AAA playoffs. The Patriots (5-4) expect the fifth seed, which would send them to Brandon Valley in the first round.
Just as the Knights appeared anxious to use Thursday night’s effort as a launch pad to greater things, the Patriots were hoping to put a one-sided loss behind them.
“This is dead and gone,” Lincoln coach Aaron Beavers said. “We’re going to put it in the closet, shut the door and move on.”
Knights quarterback Luke Fritsch ran 13 times for 181 yards with a touchdown rushing and another passing. Teammate Dody Makwinja ran 15 times for 109 yards and a touchdown with O’Gorman rolling up 447 yards total offense.
Lincoln, in spite of its struggling with turnovers, got a big night out of 5-foot-7, 215-pound sophomore Jesse Nelson, who ran 23 times for 141 yards. The Patriots gained 303 total yards, meaning there were moments of light.
“Jesse ran the ball well and I thought we had great pass protection,” Beavers said. “But they stuffed us on some plays, too.”
O’Gorman went up 6-0 with a pair of field goals from Kristian Jakowicz and made it 13-0 with a 61-yard pass from Luke Fritsch to Antonio Casiello with 1:45 to play in the half. Seconds later, Thompson picked off a pass, giving the Knights the ball at the O’Gorman 41.
The next play Dodi Makwinja went 59 yards for a score. In the span of 30 seconds in the last two minutes of the half, O’Gorman took it from 6-0 to 20-0.
“You can’t give up two touchdowns in a minute,” Beavers said, adding: “It was not our finest hour.”
O’Gorman added a 35-yard Fritsch touchdown run with 5:36 to play in the third quarter and the Knights later answered a Cory Fichter 1-yard TD for the Patriots later in the fourth quarter with a 6-yard Jack Peery touchdown run.
“I was really proud of the guys tonight,” O’Gorman coach Steve Kueter said. “Lincoln has their offensive line back from that state championship team and they’re huge. That’s where we have trouble right there. The kids did a great job up front. And Billy Daniel at linebacker isn’t physically an intimidating guy but just a great linebacker. The whole linebacker crew did a great job.”
O’Gorman lost to the other two city schools for their only losses during the regular season. But that was then. The Knights will be big favorites in the opening round, though they did not face 3-6 Aberdeen during the regular season.
“I really think we’re a way different team than we were at the beginning of the year,” Daniel said.