On Saturday, Nov. 9, the Lawrence University Vikings (1-8, 1-7 MWC) finally captured a long-deserved win from Knox College (1-8, 1-7 MWC) in what may be the last game of football played on the Banta Bowl grass.
“To send the Bowl out that way was spectacular,” said senior quarterback Luke Barthelmess. “Notably, the first game our class won together was against Knox in the Bowl, on a rainy, muddy day. So it was pretty cool to come full circle here at the end.”
Neither team found the end zone during the first quarter, but Knox senior Derek Mortensen started the scoring three minutes into the second, scoring on a 14-yard run after an interception to give Knox a 7-0 lead. It wasn’t long before the Vikings challenged this lead, as Luke Barthelmess threw a 15-yard pass to freshman Trevor Spina to tie the score at 7-7 with three minutes remaining in the half. On Knox’s next possession, an interception by sophomore Zach Eichhorst brought the ball back into Knox territory, where freshman Pat O’Mahoney kicked a 30-yard field goal to put the Vikings ahead 10-7 at the half.
After halftime, both teams hit the field with clear eyes and full hearts, their sights set on the win. With just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Luke Barthelmess crossed the plane after a 61-yard, nine-play march down the field to widen the gap to 17-7. Mortensen retaliated for the Prairie Fire with less than a minute to go in the third quarter, scoring on a 27-yard run. Lawrence remained in the lead by a score of 17-14 heading into the last quarter.
The final minutes of the fourth quarter were electrifying. An 11-play, 83-yard drive brought Knox within reach of the end zone with only 57 seconds remaining in the game, and Mortensen capitalized on a one-yard run to put the Prairie Fire ahead 20-17.
But the Vikings turned it up a notch, sustaining a 69-yard drive in the final 49 seconds of the game, working their way down the field to victory. With three seconds on the clock after both teams utilized their remaining timeouts, Lawrence made a final push: Luke Barthelmess successfully found his brother, freshman Isaac Barthelmess, as time expired, giving the Vikings a 23-20 win.
“The biggest highlight of the day, from my perspective, was watching our team come together and fight for each other,” said Luke Barthelmess, accepting responsibility for Lawrence’s turnovers and noting the defense giving up a few big plays. “But the difference Saturday was that we had each others’ backs. When the offense turned the ball over, the defense went out and got it back. When Knox scored, our offense got out there and went to work. That said, I think the game was won before it started—it was a state of mind and a resilience that had been building for a long time now.”
As the last home game for the senior class, the Knox victory was especially sweet. “I remember last year, losing to Ripon 56-55 in our last home game of that season, and the feeling in my stomach. I think every member of our team who was there for that wasn’t going to let that happen again,” reflected Barthelmess. “The ride this year has been very tough on all of us, and to finally come out on top is a testament to everyone’s resilience and work ethic. For the team, I think this weekend served as both a sigh of relief and a critical opportunity to see what we are capable of.”
The Vikings will conclude their season on Saturday, Nov. 16, against Ripon College on the road.