NOKOMIS — The Nokomis Redskins kicked off Week 4 action at home Friday, September 17 as entered a rare gridiron competition against Litchfield of the South Central Conference.
Nokomis, which came off a Week 2 loss against Central A&M, mounted a second-half rally in Week 3 to win against East Alton-Wood River 24-20. The Redskins were down 20-6 at halftime.
Nokomis’ rushing offense of 262 yards over 56 carries carried the offensive attack against East Alton-Wood River.
Meanwhile, Litchfield was looking for their first win of the season, losing three straight after getting dominated last week by Piasa Southwestern during Homecoming 55-0. In that game, quarterback Tate Dobirnick was 5-for-16, limited to 21 yards. The rushing offense struggled, only gaining 27 yards in 15 attempts.
This marked the first meeting between the two Montgomery County schools since 1984.
Improvement the goal for both teams
The goal of improvement came in different forms for the two teams.
For Nokomis, it came in the form of their 62-20 victory over the Purple Panthers to advance to a 3-1 record. This puts them three wins from the magic number of six for playoff contention.
Improvement for Litchfield came in smaller spurts. Coach Dan Carlson’s program is in the rebuilding stage, but it has been plagued with its fair share of hardship. For lack of better words, hard times. (It only seems appropriate for a Dusty Rhodes “Hard Times” reference.)
In turn, Litchfield had its fair share of successes with occasional flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately, for the Purple Panthers, they were outmatched by a Nokomis squad with experience and determination.
Redskins domination in first quarter
Nokomis’ shock-and-awe offensive attack racked up a 54-8 lead in the first half. 20 of those points would come from the first four minutes of the game, all touchdowns from the trio of Matt Hill, Connor Overby, and Jake Johnson.
All three touchdowns came in the second play of each drive. Hill’s touchdown was prefaced by his own 46-yard run. Overby’s came in the form of a quarterback sneak via a 23-yarder by Johnson. Johnson’s came following a 32-yard strike from Overby to senior Cooper Bertolino.
On defense, Nokomis was as impactive in that timeframe. Litchfield was held to two three-and-outs, with Hill getting a fumble recovery on a drive.
One of Litchfield’s flashes came during Nokomis’ following drive, as Martavious Jones would snag a fumble to keep the Redskins from reaching the end zone. It was at least temporary, as Litchfield returned the ball back in a fumble recovery by Kolin Reynolds two plays later. Jake Watson would then score on a 20-yarder to make it 28-0 with roughly 4:03 left in the first quarter.
Litchfield would find some short-lived success in their next series, with A.J. Sypherd racking up ten yards on three runs to give the Panthers their first first down of the game. The drive was cut short three plays and a punt later.
Nokomis runs up the score in the second quarter
Nokomis would again capitalize with a 40-yard Johnson run 41 seconds into the second quarter to make it 36-0.
An offensive drive from Litchfield led the Panthers into Nokomis territory for the first time in the game. Quarterback Tate Dobrinich found Carson Saathoff for 17 yards. Dobrinich made it count with Keenan Powell outrunning coverage, snagging a pass for a 39-yard touchdown. With a good two-point conversion, Litchfield was within 28 points with a 36-8 score.
That only made the Redskins defensive corps even more persistent, giving up only ten yards of offense in the next drive. That was capped off with a fumble recovery by Tanner Woolard. Moreover, it was also a good measure for Cooper Bertolino to strip Dobrinich of Litchfield’s first post-score drive.
Nokomis scored both times, expanding the lead to 49-8.
The score became 56-8 with 4:33 in the first half to play as the result of a run from Watson. They could have scored again had it not been for a leaping goal-line interception by Powell.
Litchfield ran two plays to run out the clock, with the score of 56-8 at the half.
Success continues in the second half
The Redskins chewed up time with 11 straight runs, seven for first downs. The drive ended with a one-yard run by Matt Hill to make it 62-8.
Litchfield’s success was considerably limited. A 68-yard offensive attack between Dobrinich, Saathoff, and Sypherd resulted in a score to make it 62-14. That was despite Nokomis putting out the JV squad to finish the game.
Litchfield took advantage of a JV squad sans quarterback Brody Steele. Steele is out of action due to an ACL injury. The squad ran four plays before giving the ball to Litchfield. Litchfield make their final capitalization, setting up Sypherd with their third and final score from five yards out.
For Nokomis, the win was decisive despite the loss of all-state runningback Landon Engelman, who was on the sideline after breaking his arm in last week’s win over East Alton-Wood River.
“We didn’t really have to say much,” said coach Paul Watson. “The seniors stepped up and spoke their piece, said the rest of the season is for Landon.”
“That’s our captain. That’s our guy out there that got hurt,” Watson added. “We want to continue to win and get in the playoffs and give him another chance to play.”
New challenge in Week 5 keeps playoff hopes alive
Nokomis’ chance at making the playoffs could have been easily dashed. The initially scheduled Week 5 opponent was to be Madison. However, a variety of issues relating to a lack of players and COVID-19 concerns would cancel their season.
This left a vacancy for several weeks, and without a game means no playoff points. Fortunately, athletic director Kevin Reedy was able to find a replacement prior to this game. That replacement: two-and-a-half hours away in Albion.
“It’s huge. Mr. Reedy has been working his tail off to find somebody and he did a tremendous job,” said Watson.
“We talked to Edwards County at the beginning of the season because we knew that Vienna-Goreville had roster issues and might not be able to finish the season,” Watson added. “He contacted them at the beginning of the year and said if it was open, they’d like to play.”
Watson expresses the importance of this upcoming game.
“If we have no game, we don’t get any playoff points,” states Watson “Hopefully we can get a win Saturday, which gets us closer to that six-win mark which gets us in automatically.”
Nokomis (3-1) will head to Albion to take on Edwards County (0-4). Edwards County was blown out by Sesser-Valier/Waltonville (3-1) by a score of 61-7. The kickoff will be Saturday, September 25 at 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, the 0-4 Litchfield Purple Panthers return to South Central Conference action. They will take on Greenville (3-1), who lost a close one to Piasa Southwestern (4-0) by a score of 28-27.
Box score and stats
Defensive stats (solo/assists)
Nokomis: Craig Bertolino 0/5; Isaac Satterlee 4/0; Cooper Bertolino 1/3; Jake Watson 1/3; Matt Hill 0/4, 1 fumble recovery; Jake Johnson 1/2; Braxston Taylor 1/2; Jackson Kirk 1/1; Tanner Woolard 0/2, 1 fumble recovery; Connor Overby 1/0; Zaylon Sisk 0/1; Ryan Quinn 1/0; Kaden Cook 0/1; Skylar Pavolko 1/0; Kolin Reynolds 1/0, 1 fumble recovery.
Litchfield: Martavious Jones 5/2, 1 fumble recovery; Carson Saathoff 4/3; Ryan Baugher 4/2; Hunter Hancock 4/1; A.J. Sypherd 2/2; Blake Balestri 3/1; Keenan Powell 2/1, 2 interceptions; Corbin Schneck 1/1; Keaton Case 2/0; Nick Hawley 1/0; Harrison Thomas 1/0; Emilliano McGill 1/0; Drew Hartzell 1/0; Tate Dobrinich 0/1.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.