Heads-up football contributed to Beckman’s 41-13 win in the Blazers’ season-opening game with LaPorte City Union at Beckman Field Aug. 30.
Part of that came on the first score of the second half after the Blazers had come from behind to lead by a slim, 14-13, tally at halftime. The Knights had traveled the length of the field but were forced to attempt a Mark Mahood field goal from the 29. Bennett English blocked that attempt and Riley Fangman alertly picked up the ball and raced 88 yards to paydirt, the first 20 before anyone had noticed he was moving. That score, and the ensuing kick from Tom Jaeger, put the Blazers safely ahead, 21-13, where they stayed the rest of the game.
The beginning of the game looked to be a battle that would go to the wire. Union scored first, when leading ground gainer Brayden Grosse ended a 66-yard series with a 4-yard run, the last of seven runs he added to the series, to go ahead 7-0.
Beckman’s second three-and-out series of the game gave Blazer fans a worried feeling, but they held the Knights on their next series and built a successful one of their own, capped by a 14-yard Nick Offerman run and Jaeger kick to knot the game, 7-7.
Right back down the field the Knights went on Grosse’s runs, the last a 42-yard scamper that ended in the endzone, only to lose it to a fumble recovered by his teammate Reece DeVries, for a 13-7 advantage. The Blazers blocked Mahood’s extra-point kick.
Evan Wulfekuhle tallied the first of his three touchdowns on the night on the next series, ending it with a 77-yard rush that broke a bevy of tacklers, to go up 14-13. The Knights got the ball back and ran a very long series of plays, 15 to be exact, that included three penalties. The killers happened when they had advanced to the Blazer one, giving them first and goal. A motion penalty backed them up five yards, which they got back on Grosse’s run of five. A sack of quarterback Brandon Tompkins lost eight and a personal foul for spearing put them way back on the 46, for third and goal. An incomplete pass forced the kick and the Blazers just waited out the final 10 seconds of the half.
The Knights, who had deferred possession on the opening kick to the second half, began with another lengthy series, the one that set up Fangman’s game-sealing ramble. From then on, the Blazers controlled, scoring again on their next possession just before the quarter ended on an Offerman run of 12 yards to make it 28-13.
Opening the fourth quarter, the Knights were forced into three-and-out and the Blazers blocked another Mahood kick, this time by Sean Kluesner. Jacob Sadler recovered the ball on the 38 and Wulfekuhle followed on the next play with a touchdown run, making it 35-13.
An illegal receiver downfield stifled the next Knights’ series, forcing them to kick. The final Blazer possession began at their own nine. Advancing to the 18, Hirsch ran the next five and stayed down with a cramp. Grosse exhibited true sportsmanship when he helped Hirsch on the ground and held his leg up to help work out the cramp. On the next play, Wulfekuhle ran the last 18 for the final score, 42-13.
Beckman coach Mark Atwater ended up pleased with his team’s effort. “Our offense struggled out of the gate but ended up rolling toward the end of the game. We were able to get the ball into Evan’s hands and he just makes plays. Nick (Offerman) also did a great job rushing and just running our system. We definitely need to come out faster next week though. We can’t stall again like we did tonight. I want to see more urgency when we get started.
“Defensively we struggled to stop their rushing attack but came up with stops when we needed them. We need to be able to get off the field. They were able to run quite a few more plays than we did and possessed the ball more too. I was happy with how we responded though and made changes at the half. We still gave some things up but we did a much better job. That is a huge credit to our kids and our coaches.
“Special teams was the name of the game for us. Big plays with blocks and returns blew the game open. It allowed us to take some momentum and build a solid lead.”
The Blazers gained 382 total yards while the Knights had 351. They trailed the Knights in first downs 22-16 but took care of the ball, never fumbling and picking up one of two Knight fumbles.
Individually, Wulfekuhle paced the rushing game with 136 yards on 12 carries. Offerman tallied 55 on nine, Fangman 33 on two and Hirsch 17 on four. Offerman completed seven passes for 141 yards, to Wulfekuhle (1-for-77), Trent Koelker (1-for-367), Jaeger (4-for-19) and Fangman (1-for-9). Kluesner punted twice for 85 yards. Koelker returned one kickoff for 29.
Defensively, Wulfekuhle notched seven tackles (five solo), Derick Ludwig 6.5 (six), Offerman six (four), Fangman 5.5 (five), Hirsch 4.5 (two) Owen Gaul 4.5 (four), English four (three), Koelker, Nick Hageman and Lane Kramer 3.5 (three), Elliot Naughton three (two), Kluesner 2.5 (two), Will Brehm 1.5, Sadler 1.5 (one), Victor Meyer one (one), Payton Tauke and Garrett Davis 0.5.
“This was a great win for us over a historically tough program,” added Atwater. “Union has always been in the playoffs and competed for district titles. It is positive to get a win of that caliber.”