September 11, 2010

Carthage 35, Lakeland 34

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HOWARDS GROVE, Wis. — What a game. The Carthage College football team (2-0) saw an 18-6 lead disappear in the second half, only to bounce back with enough late heroics to escape with a 35-34 overtime victory over Lakeland College (0-2). On a cool, damp day on soggy grounds and ankle-deep mud at John Taylor Field in Howards Grove, Wis., Carthage took a 7-0 lead at 4:12 first period on a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Evan Jones to wide receiver Pete Djurickovic. The Red Men made it a 15-0 game at 5:36 second period on a one-yard touchdown run by Jake Smith and a two-point conversion.

Lakeland scored with 13 seconds left to play in the first half on a one-yard touchdown pass from Jake Dworak to Roberto Flores, but the point-after was blocked, and the Red Men led, 15-6. A 28-yard field goal by Tyler Funk at 10:59 third period upped Carthage's lead to 18-6. Dworak and Flores hooked up on another touchdown pass, this one a 20-yarder, at 2:44 third period, and Lakeland pulled to within five, 18-13.

While the Red Men intercepted two passes in the first half, Carthage's third turnover of the game proved costly. Carthage's Evan Jones fumbled a snap at the Red Men's 29-yard line with 8:10 to play. A one-handed grab by Muskies tight end Eric Zuelsdorf brought the ball to the one-yard line, and tailback Jeremy Williams carried the ball in from the one. Tight end Eric Zuelsdorf caught a pass for a two-point conversion, and the Muskies took their first lead of the game, 21-18, with 3:30 to go.

Following the Lakeland kickoff, Carthage took over at the Muskies 49-yard line. The Red Men worked the ball down to the 14-yard line before the drive stalled. A 31-yard field-goal attempt by Tyler Funk tied the game, 21-21, with 2:18 to play. On the ensuing Lakeland drive, the Muskies got the ball to Carthage 36-yard line when Dworak connected with Flores on a 36-yard touchdown pass with 1:08 to go. The extra point was good, and Lakeland led, 28-21. The Red Men came right back with a drive that brought them to the 14-yard line, and a pass interference call moved the ball to the five. With 18 seconds to play, Jones followed with a five-yard TD pass to Mike Koeneman. The Funk kick was good for a 28-28 tie.

On the first play of overtime, Jones connected with Tim Lukas on a 25-yard touchdown pass. Funk's kick was good, and Carthage led, 35-28. Following a Lakeland first down and a costly 15-yard personal foul on Brett Hogen, Jeremy Williams carried the ball in from the five-yard line for a touchdown. The Muskies went for a game-winning two-point conversion, but a pass to Zuelsdorf was intercepted in the end zone by Josh Brennan, and the Red Men escaped with a 35-34 victory. Carthage's only other overtime game came on Nov. 9, 2002 when the Red Men lost a 34-28 contest to Augustana College (Ill.) at Art Keller Field.

Carthage had 319 total offensive yards, 235 passing and 84 yards rushing, while Lakeland had 348 total yards, 237 in the air and 111 on the ground. Evan Jones completed 20-of-36 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Tim Lukas caught six passes for 93 yards, while Mike Koeneman caught six for 53 yards. Jake Smith ran for 75 yards on 20 carries. Lakeland's Jake Dworak completed 20-of-39 passes for 235 and three touchdowns, with Roberto Flores snagging 13 passes for 175 yards and three TDs.

"We had three turnovers," said Carthage coach Tim Rucks, "and we did some things that weren't very smart that killed us, but you have to give credit to Lakeland. They made some big plays when they had to. They do a good job, and they were ready to play us. We could have put the game away in the first half, but we were our own worst enemy. The turnovers really hurt us. Good football teams don't do that. It's a lot easier teaching, however, after a win. Offensive coordinator Terry Peebles made the call on the touchdown pass in overtime, so you'd have to ask him about that. Terry would probably tell you that we a physical mismatch with Tim Lukas and his defender. He made a heck of a catch, and he's going to be a good football player. It was a tough field to play on, and the footing was not good. Our defense played well. They told me it was Josh Brennan who intercepted the final Lakeland pass. I didn't even see it—I was about knocked down on the sideline. We have a lot to work on this week, and our focus, as always, is just to get better." The Red Men travel to Mequon, Wis., on Saturday, Sept. 18 to play Concordia University (Wis.) in a 1 p.m. game at Century Stadium.

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