Big Plays Plus Strong Defense = District Title
By David Sharp
Knox County’s rock ribbed defense limited a potent Schuyler County Ram offense to 209 yards from scrimmage in a 46-6 District 12 victory.
The win vaulted the Eagles into the Class 1 playoffs for the second consecutive season. This time Knox County (6-4, 4-3 in the conference) ran the table and won their district football championship for the first time since 1995.
David Hinkle set the Knox County single season school record for quarterback sacks with 11. Hinkle may well set the career sack mark as well with around 20 sacks. Cameron Kirmse had 231 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown.
The October 30, 2009 contest did not start out well for a large gathering of Eagle football fans. Tim Gorman recovered a fumble on the Eagle 40 yard line, stalling the first drive of the contest.
Knox County stopped the Rams on defense, producing a negative three yards on the four down Schuyler County series. The Eagles scored on two trick plays. Tristan Lonberger heaved a halfback option pass to a wide open Leighton McCabe for the game’s first score.
“We knew that the corner was going to come up on the pitch,” said wide receiver Leighton McCabe. “I just engaged him, and I was wide open.” McCabe raced 52 yards for a touchdown with 7:20 showing on the first quarter clock.
The two point pass failed, and the Eagles led by six points. Knox County forced another Schuyler County fourth down. Tim Gorman had an excellent overall game for the Rams. Gorman punted the football to the Knox County five yard line.
Between three and five inches of rain soaked Ella Campbell Field the previous day. The turf was in surprisingly good shape. Field conditions deteriorated as the game progressed. Schuyler County executed first quarter two punts deep into KCHS territory.
Knox County took advantage of a determined Ram defense, springing Cameron Kirmse for an 86 yard touchdown dash with 3:45 showing on the first quarter clock. Tristan Lonberger ran in the two point conversion for a 14-0 Eagle lead.
Cameron Kirmse had a career high 222 yards rushing on ten carries with a touchdown on Knox County’s Senior Night. “We came out focused in practice. We are trying to eliminate turnovers and all the mental mistakes we have been making,” said the returning Class 1 all district place kicker.
Injuries have robbed the Eagles of one of their best all around athletes for the past three seasons. Kirmse showed the area what he is capable of on a district championship stage.
“Tonight we came out focused and did what we were supposed to do,” said Cameron Kirmse. “I owe all of my running plays to my offensive line. They made holes you could drive a truck through. We worked on containing (Tim) Gorman in practice.”
“We did a pretty good job of containment except for that one play,” Tim Gorman raced 80 yards for the lone Schuyler County score on the first play of the second half.
“It’s been our dream since we started,” said Cameron Kirmse of the Eagle’s 2009 football district title. “We want to go to state. The first step is to win our district. We eliminated our mental errors. We are happy as heck.”
Knox County’s defense forced yet another three and out. Tim Gorman rocketed the football to the Eagle one yard line with a 55 yard punt. The Eagles were able to move the ball out of the shadow of their goal line, but were forced to punt.
The Rams made a first down, but were stopped on downs at the Knox County 39 yard line. Damon Hemmerling capped the 61 yard scoring drive with a 44 yard dash to pay dirt at the 5:01 juncture of period two.
Tristan Lonberger fired another scoring pass to Leighton McCabe, this time for a two point conversion and a 22-0 Eagle lead. Schuyler County mounted a nice 51 yard drive to the Eagle 22 yard line.
Knox County stopped the Rams with three seconds showing on the first half clock. Tim Gorman made an athletic pass interception of a long Keenan Gillaspy pass. Gorman returned the ball 48 yards, but was stopped shy of the goal line.
The half ended with Knox County up by 22 points. The Eagles held a 6-4 halftime advantage in first downs. Knox County out gained their guests 248-111 in the first two quarters.
Schuyler County (2-8, 2-5 in the conference) had four illegal procedure penalties in the first half, and was penalized seven times for 55 yards overall. Knox County turned the ball over twice in the first half to none for Schuyler County. There were no turnovers in the second half.
The wind was blowing 21 mph out of the West-Northwest at the start of the second half with a 46 degree temperature. Cameron Kirmse boomed the second half kickoff out of the end zone for a touchback.
Tim Gorman made a nice read on the option and took the football 80 yards to the house on the first play from scrimmage. The two point run failed, trimming the Eagle lead to 22-6.
Schuyler County dug the ball out of the mud on an on side kick, giving the Rams possession of the football on the Eagle 42 yard line along with momentum. Knox County stood firm on defense.
The fifth Schuyler County illegal procedure penalty of the contest turned a fourth down and four to a fourth and nine around the 40 yard marker. Aaron Fowler caught a six yard pass, but was stopped three yards shy of a badly needed first down.
Knox County took over on their 35 yard line with 10:40 showing on the third quarter clock. Cameron Kirmse turned in runs of 27 and 18 yards. The Eagles saw a ten yard run inside the red zone called back by a holding penalty.
Aaron Fowler broke up a touchdown pass in the end zone. The Eagles overcame all the adversity of the early second half when Tristan Lonberger made a great diving catch of Keenan Gillaspy’s post pattern pass just over the goal line for a touchdown.
The 22 yard completion coupled with Keenan Gillaspy’s two point run put Knox County up 30-6 with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter. Knox County stopped Schuyler County again defensively.
David Hinkle recorded his school record 11th sack of the season for a 12 yard loss on fourth down. “We put a lot of pressure on (Tim) Gorman,” said Knox County senior defensive tackle Travis Hamlin of the KCHS defensive effort.
“We flushed him out of the pocket. We tried to make him uncomfortable, and to take the ball outside. We came out early, hit them in the mouth and made them wobbly,” said Travis Hamlin.
“Our linemen did a (heckuva) job from the first play to the end,” said Hamlin. “We got them off the ball all night. A lot of credit to our running backs for being ready to run through the holes we made.”
“It’s amazing,” said the three year starter when asked about the district title. “We have got home field advantage. We need to have a good week of practice and come out ready to play Wednesday.”
Leighton McCabe capped a 63 yard drive with his second touchdown reception of the contest. Keenan Gillaspy tossed his second TD pass of the game with 1:37 to go in period three. Tristan Lonberger was in on his third of four two point conversions, this time taking an option pitch to the corner flag for a 38-6 lead.
Knox County’s defense allowed a scant four yards on the next Ram possession. Eagle fans started sensing the sweet taste of victory. Knox County took over on the Ram 45 yard line with 11:23 to play in the game.
Cameron Kirmse converted a third down and 22 situation, racing 19 yards for a first down at the Ram 13 yard line. Andy Greenley capped the six minute, 45 yard drive with a two yard run.
Keenan Gillaspy found Tristan Lonberger with a two point pass. Knox County led 46-6 with 5:42 to play in the game. The anticipated shootout had progressed to a continuous clock rout.
Several young players on both sides got in the game. Senior Cody Pegg had two running plays for 47 yards during the final five minutes. Freshman quarterback Chance Tungate downed the football for the final play of the game.
Tungate and his six freshman teammates were very young when the Eagles won their last football district title.
Senior night honorees Tristan Lonberger, Dylan Morgret, Keenan Gillaspy, Keenan Kite, Andy Greenley, Cody Pegg, Brian Schrage, Travis Hamlin, Jason Ingalls, Ben Harder, Christian Deem, David Hinkle and Cameron Kirmse celebrated their unbeaten district championship along with the remainder of Eagle players, coaches and fans.
Knox County hosts Princeton (5-5) on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 in the Class 1 Regional playoff round. The Tigers have been to the Class 1 final four the last two seasons.
All state running back Vance Purdun is a focal point of the Tiger offense. If the Eagles manage to contain the potent Princeton running game. Quarterback Brycen Stark has freshman receiver Colton Hartley and Will Letner to catch passes.
Defensive ends Jack Dennis and Letner come off edges as hard as KCHS defensive ends David Hinkle and Damon Hemmerling. The Tigers are healing up from early season injuries. Undefeated Marceline downed Princeton 20-0 to win their district crown.
Knox County traveled to Princeton last season, and was beaten in a driving rain during the second half of their 2008 playoff match up. “The kids have worked hard for that goal,” said Knox County coach Steve Ramer of the 2009 district title.
“They believe in what we are doing. They have worked hard in the weight room. We can’t forget the steps it took to get here,” said Coach Ramer. “it was their weight room ethic that got us here. It wasn’t a miracle overnight. It was a four of five year process of working hard.”
Knox County rushed 38 times for 349 yards on the night. Cody Pegg was the second highest rusher behind Cameron Kirmse’s 222 yard night with 47 yards on two attempts. Keenan Gillaspy had ten carries for 44 yards. Andy Greenley rushed two times for five yards and a touchdown.
Damon Hemmerling had 14 attempts for 33 net yards and a touchdown. The Eagles recorded 16 first downs to seven for the Rams. Schuyler County statistics mentioned in this story are unofficial.
“We are young. Knox knew what they had to do. They have made the stepping stones,” Schuyler County head coach Jason Melnick told KMEM Radio after the contest. “We just didn’t show up the first half. We had a lot of mental mistakes. We came out in the second half and did some things to get us there, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Schuyler County rushed for 168 yards on 33 carries. Tim Gorman led the way with 18 rushes for 122 yards and a touchdown. Dakota Schmitter rushed ten times for 37 yards. Time of possession was about even at 24 minutes each.
The Rams were 6-9 passing for 61 yards. Christian Cunningham had two catches for 39 yards. Aaron Fowler had two receptions for 21 yards. All six pass completions were by Tim Gorman. Schuyler County was flagged seven times for 55 yards unofficially.
Knox County had three penalties for 35 yards on the night. Brian Schrage and David Hinkle recorded quarterback sacks. Knox County was 4-7 passing for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Keenan Gillaspy went 3-6 for 68 yards passing along with an interception and two touchdowns.
Tristan Lonberger was 1-1 passing for 52 yards and a touchdown. Lonberger had a 22 yard pass reception for a touchdown. Leighton McCabe caught two balls for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Cameron Kirmse had a nine yard pass reception.
“You saw that we had more than one weapon tonight,” said Steve Ramer of a good overall team effort. “Our line controlled the line of scrimmage. We have ran the option pretty well the last two weeks. They keyed on (Cameron) Kirmse. They quit keying on Kirmse, and you saw what he could do if you don’t watch him.”
“We controlled the offensive and defensive front,” said Coach Ramer when asked of the difference in the game. “We understand what we do. We tackled better. We didn’t turn the ball over a lot.”
“It’s going to come down to the simple things that win football games,” said Ramer when asked the key to evening the Eagle playoff record with Princeton.
“You are going to have to take care of the football and eliminate penalties. The same things that you work on every week are going to win playoff games. You don’t make a lot of adjustments or change what you do in the playoffs.”
“Teams that are very sound, step up the plate and play with heart are the ones that win in the playoffs.”