If one play could come close to making up for the frustration of sitting out with an injury all last year, then Eliot Naughton got it Oct. 1 against Waterloo Columbus in a homecoming tilt when he knocked down the Sailors’ two-point conversion pass in overtime to preserve a 35-34 Blazer win.
The game, in the words of a fan, “better than even the (Field of Dreams) baseball game” was a knock-down battle between two ranked teams. Beckman is sixth, Columbus ninth and the competition showed.
Tied at 28-28 after regulation, the Blazers scored first, when Cayden Gassmann ran the final seven yards and Burchard connected, 35-28. Then it was time for the Sailors to try from the 10-yard line and they needed just two plays for quarterback Carter Gallagher to connect with his favorite target, Nick Merrifield, making it 35-34. Going for the win, they attempted a two-point conversion pass after Gallagher had scrambled around the backfield, avoiding the Blazer defense. He let it fly to an open man in the corner of the endzone but Naughton knocked it down and the game was done.
It was tough to gain traction from the start, in the first quarter, the Sailors stole the ball from a downed Owen Huehnergarth and returned it 51 yards to set up their first score with nine minutes to go in the quarter, finally sending Josh Heins in for the last two yards, 7-0.
Stymied several times on their next series by penalties, the Blazers turned the ball over on downs but held the Sailors and took it back, getting a short kick to set up Huehnergarth for a 24-yard scamper to knot the game. Logan Burchard hit the extra point kick perfectly as usual, the first of five.
A 68-yard runback of Burchard’s kickoff set the Sailors up for an easy next score and they led 14-7 at the quarter break. They stretched that to 21-7 on the first series of the second quarter and it took until the final minutes of the half for the Blazers to get another TD. They took over on the 18, got yards from Nick Wulfekuhle and Gassmann, as well as a key 13-yard pass to Padraig Gallagher before Huehnergarth bulled in from the one to make it 21-14 at the break.
After the Sailors failed to score on their first series of the second half, the Blazers took over for the longest series of the game, 15 plays, 76 yards, the bulk of them from Huehnergarth. Three times though he gained yardage, only to see penalties steal it away. But finally, he ran the last seven yards to knot the game at 21 just before the end of the third.
A blocked kick ended the Sailors’ next possession but both teams were forced into three-and-out situations before a short field gave Huehnergarth another tally with 2:08 left in the game. Trouble was, Columbus moved the ball quickly downfield, using Carter Gallagher’s passing arm and knotted the game with 47 seconds to go, on another pass, to Merrifield again, 28-28.
The Blazers moved the ball as well, with Oakley Harbaugh passing, with seconds left, into a group of Blazers that included Gassmann and Eric Heinrichs, who caught the ball deep, but not quite deep enough, forcing overtime.
Coach Mark Atwater said, “Our only concern at halftime was to get one-stop on defense and one score. We needed to take the second half play-by-play to get us back into the game. I think that mindset helped us a lot. There is no magic formula, you just have to come out and hope to play better.
“I am just so happy and proud of the fight in our kids. We got pushed and we came back and fought. It was a great win for our team but also our school and community. It was a special night.”
Beckman’s statistical leaders were: passing — Gassmann 4-of-7 for 48, Harbaugh 1-of-1 for 39; receiving — Padraig Gallagher 3-for-39, Heinrichs 1-for-39, Luke Schieltz 1-for-9; rushing — Huehnergarth 25-for-205 four TDs, Gassmann 12-for-83, one, Wulfekuhle 5-for-15, Schieltz 1-for-9, Max Mullis 2-for-6; punt returns — Schieltz 2-for-20; kick returns — Mullis 4-for-33, Eli Kluesner 1-for-10; punts — Mullis 4-for-141; tackles — Jason Koopmann six (four solo, three for loss, sack), Wulfekuhle six (five, one) Naughton 5.5 (four, two), Huehnergarth four (three, 0.5), Ben Lueck 3.5 (three, 0.5), Harbaugh and Grover three (three), Gassmann and Burchard 2.5 (two), Kluesner two (two), Schieltz 1.5 (one), Mullis and Michael Dinan one (one), Ty Fangman, Ryan Funke, Lane Kramer, Heinrichs and Arturo Venegas 0.5.