GALESBURG, Illinois - In a season opener that came down to the wire, the Knox Prairie Fire fell to the Ripon College Red Hawks by a final score of 21-14 this Saturday at the Knosher Bowl. The loss is their first of the young season.
Knox started the game rather slowly on offense, scoring no points in the first half while letting their defense do the talking. When both teams traded punts to begin the first quarter, Caleb Spinks stepped up by both forcing and recovering a fumble for the Prairie Fire, setting the team up in excellent field position. Unfortunately, Knox missed the 38 yard field goal on the ensuing drive, and the Red Hawks followed with a march down the field in a drive of their own that culminated in a rushing touchdown. After trading punts again with Knox, the Red Hawks used a 50-yard pass play to set up a 7-yard rushing touchdown to double their lead over the Prairie Fire. Several more unsuccessful possessions for each team later, the score at the half remained 14-0 in favor of Ripon. The beginning of the second half also saw little offensive action for either team, with only a field goal by Erick Flores for Ripon being the scoring in the third quarter. Kaile Williams had some excellent runs in the mean time, powering the Prairie Fire offense with his legs as he looked to spark some life into the team. After another field goal by Flores in the fourth quarter, he took matters into his own hands, racing down the field for a 79-yard rushing touchdown that moved the crowd to its feet. Inspired by this play, the next drive for Knox saw them again move down the field using a powerful running attack, this time scoring a touchdown on a goal line run from Hunter Anderson. Only down by one score, Knox attempted an onside kick to try get the ball back, but were unsuccessful, and Ripon ran down the clock and won the game.
Williams finished the game 8-for-18 passing for 101 yards and racked up 114 yards rushing to lead the Prairie Fire. Anderson picked up 37 receiving yards on three receptions. Ean Rau led the Knox defense with 12 tackles, while Kendall Ballman added eight. William Gutknect racked up five tackles, including two sacks. Jacob Etienne, Jonathan Sarich, and Caleb Spinks also added sacks. "Obviously not the way we wanted to start the season," said head coach Aaron Willits. "We showed some life in the second half and will look to use that as a springboard for next week." The Prairie Fire look to take lessons learned from this game into next week, when they host Lake Forest College at 2:00 p.m.