On Saturday, September 22, the Vikings packed up their gear, put their game faces on and headed toward Lake Forest College to take on the Foresters. “The atmosphere before the game was focused. We all knew we had one job to do and we were all focused on completing that job,” said sophomore Jacob Sullivan. While Lake Forest is a nonconference game due to the school being within the south division, this rivalry remains strong, making this game one of the bigger games of the season and the Vikings definitely kept it interesting. Sullivan said “there was a lot of film to study, every detail counted. The vibe of the team was ecstatic. We all were hyped for the game, because it was a game to win.”
The Foresters took the lead early on in the game with a 36-yard scoring run within the first minute of the game. Lawrence responded right away with a 42-yard field goal by first-year Jacob Enos, cutting the lead to 7-3. Continuing the positive streak for Lawrence, sophomore Ethan Simmons came through with a blocked punt, returning it for a touchdown on the following drive. This was the first blocked punt returned for a touchdown by the Vikings in 27 years, the last person being Eric Karnosky in 1991. In this moment, it was obvious this game was going to be a good one.
With the score set at 10-7, the Vikings continued to show their hard-earned skill with a fourth and one conversion, followed by a 23-yard run by sophomore quarterback D’Andre Weaver. The next play, junior Wasano Allen muscled through the Forester defense for a four-yard gain that resulted in yet another touchdown for the Vikings, making the score 17-7.
Lake Forest responded with a touchdown pass with just under two minutes left of the first half, cutting the Lawrence lead to 17-14. However, Lawrence answered with an outstanding touchdown as a result of a quick 77-yard offense over the course of only seven plays. This offensive series included a number of players’ contributions. Weaver connected with first year Tanner Morris, a recruited quarterback turned wide receiver, on a 32-yard pass. Simmons received another 32-yard pass from Weaver, who connected with senior tight end Chris Shaw for the last two yards needed to score. The teams went to half time with a Lawrence lead of 24-14. The third quarter stayed fairly quiet, the only score change occurring with three and a half minutes remaining when Enos nailed an easy 27-yard field goal, increasing Lawrence’s lead to 27-14. The fourth quarter, however, proved to be the most eventful.
Lake Forest cut the lead to 27-21 with a touchdown right away in the fourth quarter. While the Vikings didn’t respond with a scoring series on offense, Enos’ punt landed Lake Forest on their own one-yard line, seeming to have put them in their place. However, the will of the Foresters was strong as they marched the length of the field in a mere 12 plays, ending with an 11-yard touchdown pass, giving Lake Forest the lead for the first time since the beginning of the first quarter. The Lawrence Vikings responded with a rocky but effective offensive series that lasted 4 minutes and 35 seconds, but resulted in a touchdown to regain the lead of the game. With only 1:02 left on the clock and a 34-28 lead, Lawrence needed to hold the Foresters on defense. Unfortunately, with a few clutch pass receptions, Lake Forest made their way down the field to score with only 18 seconds left in the game. While the Vikings were able to make progress down the field, they came up short and lost to Lake Forest 35-34.
Weaver finished the game 17-of-26 passing for a total of 215 yards and a touchdown. He also had 94 personal running yards and a touchdown. Simmons ran 11 times totaling 57 yards, as well as his punt block touchdown. Morris finished with six passes for 80 yards, marking his biggest game in his Lawrence career so far. Shaw had seven receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. This offense, averaging a 5.4 yard gain per play, played very well, but came up just short of a win. The solid defense was led by Sophomore Wyatt Lee who finished the game with 17 tackles, a forced fumble, and a sack. Junior Tyler Kujawa contributed nine stops for the Vikings, followed by sophomore AJ Wansley, with 8 stops.
The Vikings are coming into this next game excited. While the atmosphere post game was quiet, they have to bounce back and get ready for Monmouth this upcoming weekend. “It’s going to be a big game for us” said Sullivan. “We have a set game plan to beat them. Attitudes are angry and pumped,” and they are using that to their advantage.
This year is different than the past. With all of the guys buying into the program completely and treating their team as a family, this team is about to see some major success. “We pushed ourselves to get better, and that is what I truly think is the difference [this season]. We are feeling more and more like a family as each practice goes by.”
The Vikings play at home this weekend against Monmouth at 1 p.m. Go out and show them your support. This will be a season that everyone will want to be a part of.