GALESBURG, Illinois—The Prairie Fire football team is set to renew the Lincoln Bowl against Eureka College in the fall of 2023 after a three year hiatus. Until then, the Prairie Fire and Red Devils are set to scrimmage one another on August 28 and then again in the fall of 2022.
“It is great that we can continue to honor the history that both of our schools share with President Abraham Lincoln,” said Knox College Director of Athletics Daniella Irle. “It is important that we continue this football tradition and bring the rivalry back to our campuses.”
Knox and Eureka rekindled the century-old rivalry when they established the Lincoln Bowl in 2012. Both Knox and Eureka have a strong tie to President Abraham Lincoln as he spoke at both colleges in the 1850s. Lincoln spoke at Eureka in 1856 on behalf of John Charles Fremont, the Republican Party's very first candidate for President of the United States. Two years later, in 1858, Lincoln debated alongside Stephen Douglas at Knox for a seat on the United States Senate.
“When I played at Knox we picked up Eureka as our non-conference game,” said head football coach Aaron Willits ‘08. “Even then as a player it made sense to get them on our schedule. I think that was the spark that led to the creation of the Lincoln Bowl. And when things got going officially my younger brother Jordan (Willits ‘14) was playing for the first Lincoln Bowl trophy.”
The first football game between Knox and Eureka was played in Galesburg on October 14, 1893. Knox won that game 22-0. The teams have played 29 times since, and Knox holds an 18-11-1 edge in the all-time series.
“Shortly after I arrived back in Galesburg, Coach (Kurt) Barth reached out about playing,” added Willits. “Like I said before, it made sense as a player, and it makes sense now that there is more on the line. It’s a young rivalry, but it’s a rivalry. There is a trophy on the line. Why wouldn’t we want to play that game!”
The Prairie Fire lost the 2019 matchup with the Red Devils 42-28 at Eureka after going into halftime in a 14-14 tie.
“My first time playing in the Lincoln Bowl was crazy,” said Derrick Jackson ‘22. “I had the Eureka fans calling my name, the energy was crazy. This is the first game of the season each year and is always a statement game.”
Jackson filled up the stat sheet in the 2019 game carrying the ball eight times for 71 yards, also hauling in a 6-yard reception, and returning six kickoffs for 92 combined yards.
“In that conversation Coach Barth and I talked about getting it on the schedule officially, but we were both on the same page about keeping it alive as best as possible until then which is why we will scrimmage the next two seasons,” concluded Willits. “We will have a good build up to 2023.”