Crisp, seasonal temperatures prevailed at Augustana College's venerable Lindberg Stadium Friday night in Rock Island as Richwoods took on the host Pioneers of Alleman. In a spirited, hard fought tussle between two well coached and evenly matched teams, the Pioneers prevailed in the end by the score of 23-19.
The game began as somewhat of a shoving match while the teams were feeling each other out, much like a heavyweight bout. Both struggled to move the ball with any consistency and the defensive play was up to snuff from the beginning for both squads. In fact, the Knights did not muster a first down in quarter number one. While Alleman was not having much better luck, a spectacular throw and catch from Kevin O'Keefe to Kylee Dorsey led the way to a score by big Alec Diab from O'Keefe putting the hosts up 7-0 at quarter's end.
Steve Covington recovered a fumble as the first period ended and then caught two tosses from Max Berres totaling 37 yards, the last 16 of which took him into the end zone to knot up the score at seven. As each team did throughout the evening, Alleman punched right back after adversity with a field goal late in the half at the 1:08 mark. Undaunted, the Knights marched down the field until a last second, 45 yard field goal attempt by Justin Cole fell just short. It was 10-7 in favor of the home team at the break. The Knights had several positive plays thwarted by penalty flags and surely felt fortunate that the game was basically even at this point. In addition, sophomore Damion Gillespie showed why his future looks bright as he made several nice plays in both the rushing and return games to help spark the Knights.
After holding the Pioneers to start the third with a big tackle for loss by senior Keith King, it was tough Love time as Daejgon Love demonstrated some bulldog style running to lead the Knights deep into enemy territory. However, after a questionable intentional grounding call at the 20 pushed them back on third down, Cole just missed wide left on another long field goal attempt. The visitors did not hang their heads, however, as they they took an O'Keefe fumble in for the score to give Richwoods its first lead at 13-10. O'Keefe, whose running and passing ability was really the difference in this game, struck right back and atoned for the prior miscue as he hit Dorsey on a nice 43 yard touchdown pass to send Alleman into the fourth quarter with a 17-13 advantage.
Alleman drove back deep into Knights territory as the last quarter unfolded, but on 4th and one at the 25, the Knights gang tackled Matt Hubbell for a big loss and took over on downs. A short toss in the left flat to Covington once again resulted in his outracing the field 67 yards to the goal line and the Knights were right back ahead, 19-17, with 6:13 left in the game. However, O'Keefe, Diab and Hubbell were not to be denied as the Pioneers impressively drove the length of the field and Hubbell found the end zone from two yards out with 3:09 left in the game to set the final margin of victory. Max Berres was intercepted on Richwoods' last gasp effort and time ran out as the scoring was over for the evening.
In other area games, Notre Dame claimed the unofficial Mid State 6 conference title by virtue of their 53-8 win over Manual. Washington clinched a share of the Mid Illini conference title with a 35-14 thrashing of Metamora. Pekin continued its post season push with a convincing 28-7 victory over East Peoria.