Some local football pundits may have thought Friday’s game pitting the Nicolet Knights against the Milwaukee Lutheran Red Knights would be a shootout.
They would be absolutely correct.
Both teams had plenty of exciting moments, but Lutheran managed to get the better of Nicolet, 41-21.
Nicolet was down 28-7 in the third quarter, but a string of electrifying plays put the Knights right back into the game.
One of the game’s most exciting moments took place when senior quarterback Brandon Kappel completed a pass to Bryce Bowen, who fumbled the ball to sophomore teammate Justin Wallace, a lineman who scooped the ball and chugged his way to the end zone for a hair-raising touchdown.
Nicolet head coach Brad Kozaczuk was pleased with his team’s turnaround in the second half, especially the fumble recovery.
“That gave us a little bit of life, gave us a little bit of confidence,” Kozaczuk said.
Junior Tyler Crass would keep the fans on their feet when he intercepted a Lutheran pass and set his team up for another drive, down just two scores.
Senior running back Bernard Stutts played the role of workhorse with three straight rushes for 21 total yards. Those hard-earned runs set up a Kappel to Bowen touchdown for 23 yards to put the Knights behind 28-21 late in the third quarter.
The comeback, however, ended there.
The comeback, however, ended there.
“When things are going good, we do good things," Kozacuk siad. "When things are going bad, we do bad things. We [have] got to find a way to break out of that."
Lutheran quarterback Jake Nelson, who threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns, made sure Nicolet didn’t get any closer as the Red Knights closed out the game with two more scores.
Nelson and company began the game with five wide receivers and a no- huddle offense.
The Red Knights, who are now 4-0 overall and 2-0 in league play, threw often in what was mostly a shotgun formation.
Nicolet responded to Lutheran's game-opening touchdown when Crass returned a punt to the Red Knights' 20-yard line. Kappel ran for a 6-yard touchdown and also kicked the extra point that gave Nicolet its only lead of the game at 7-6 in the first quarter.
Lutheran continued its aerial onslaught with two consecutive touchdown throws from Nelson to put the Red Knights up 20-7.
“We need to execute better,” Kozaczuk said. “We came out in the first half and we didn’t execute our defensive game plan the way we were taught all week in practice. We tried to play with instinct and tried to play off our feelings as opposed to our training.”
In the second half, Nicolet improved and made a game of it.
“When we came back out in the second half, we started doing what we were taught to do,” Kozaczuk said. “Things started to happen the way we thought they would go.”
Nicolet practiced for Lutheran to also run the ball.
“We had prepared for that; we just didn’t execute too well,” Kozaczuk said.
Lutheran running back Tyler White racked up 157 yards on the ground to go along with three touchdowns.
Lutheran head coach Joe Kalkopf was pleased with the game’s outcome, but credited Nicolet for a tough battle.
“We don’t like giving up 21 [points], but Nicolet’s got some very good players,” Kalkopf said.
The loss puts Nicolet 0-2 in league play and 2-2 overall. The Knights take on Port Washington on the road (1-3 overall, 0-2 in league play) next week.
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