Knights conclude nine-man season where it started

CHRISTINE VREEMAN/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Lucas Howard, left, and Kingsland teammate Reed Merkel work to bring down a Grand Meadow ball-handler.

CHRISTINE VREEMAN/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Reed Jeno, left, and Thomas Warren protect Kingsland quarterback William Jahn in the game against Grand Meadow. In the backfield, far right, is Noah Watson.

CHRISTINE VREEMAN/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Devin Carr picks up some yards for the Knights in the playoff game against Grand Meadow.
Chad Smith

The Kingsland football team’s first nine-man season came to an end in the first round of the playoffs, thanks to a 42-0 loss to Grand Meadow on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

The Knights came in as the No. 7 seed in the sub-district, while the Superlarks were the No. 2 seed. The Knights finish the season at 1-8 overall.

Grand Meadow (9-1) advanced to beat the two-time defending champion Spring Grove Lions 24-14 on Saturday, Oct. 26, and will next play No. 5 seed Houston for the sub-district title.

The Superlarks bookended the season for Kingsland. Grand Meadow won the season opener between the two teams, 47-22 on Aug. 30. The Knights couldn’t muster a similar amount of offensive success in the rematch between the two teams last week. Kingsland coach Brent Stinson said the team gave it everything they have against one of the better programs in nine-man football.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Grand Meadow because they’ve improved a lot as the season went on,” he said. “We couldn’t get anything going offensively to generate first downs, while at the same time, they made more plays than we did. We had good effort all game, we just couldn’t make enough plays to sustain any momentum.”

The Knights couldn’t generate anything on the ground or in the air. The team finished with 26 carries for 75 yards (2.88 yards per carry). Quarterback William Jahn was the top rusher with 11 carries and 43 yards. Lucas Howard added eight carries for 17 yards. Jahn didn’t have much better luck through the air, completing just five of 13 passes for 30 yards. Devin Carr had two catches for 15 yards.

The undoing of Kingsland was likely turnovers. The Knights fumbled the ball four times, something Stinson said you can’t do against a fundamentally sound team like GM.

“They do all the fundamentals extremely well,” he said. “They take good care of the football while they’re offensive and defensive lines really set a physical tone. Grand Meadow also has a lot of playmakers that win their matchups either in the holes or out on the edge.”

Carr led the Kingsland defense six tackles (5 solos) and an interception. Lucas Howard added five tackles and Noah Watson had four.

That wraps up the first season for Kingsland in nine-man football. The schedule featured some of the toughest nine-man teams in the state. What made it tougher was the consistent number of injuries from week-to-week. The Knights were never able to put their projected starting lineups on the field during a single game.

“It was challenging to handle adversity every week because we had guys out with injuries,” Stinson said. “You can’t control how your cards are dealt but you can control how to use them. We still managed to show some improvements as a team from week to week.

“I was proud of how we practiced hard every single week. At times, we competed hard against some very good teams. Our seniors provided a lot of leadership and set the bar high for the underclassmen to shoot for next year.”

One of the biggest areas of improvement this year came on special teams. The kickoff and kickoff return teams were “consistent all year,” according to Stinson. The Knights limited big returns by the opposition while creating some big returns of their own.

For those boys that don’t go out for basketball in the winter, Stinson said they’ll get to work on offseason conditioning soon. That conditioning work, especially in the weight room, has been paying off in recent years.

“The kids have really started to see some of the results of all the work they’ve put in during recent years through the weight room and the speed-and-strength program,” he said. “When the matchups come around the fall, it’s time to put all that conditioning to the test.”

Kingsland football says goodbye to a number of talented seniors, including Nick Ramaker, Lucas Howard, Reed Merkel, Ashton Kohn, Matthew Schwanke, Noah Watson and Patrick Junge.