Entering its quarterfinal football game against Glidden-Ralston in the Eight-Man playoffs on Friday, Fremont-Mills’ Joey Carlson had caught eight passes this season.
On Friday, the senior tight end made just one catch. But none have ever been bigger for the Knights as Carlson’s 8-yard grab on the third play of overtime that lifted Fremont-Mills to a 20-14 victory.
The win puts the Knights into Thursday’s semifinal against Armstrong-Ringsted (12-0).
The Knights dominated on both sides of the ball the first half, but the game was scoreless heading into the second quarter. After linebacker Logan Wood grabbed a fumble at the Wildcat seven, two plays later Austin Williams punched in the Knights’ first score from a yard out.
Later in the quarter, running back Nate Meier put Fremont-Mills out in front 14-0 at halftime.
After allowing just 68 totals yards and no points in the first half, Fremont-Mills coach Jeremy Christiansen thought his team was in control, but he knew the Wildcats weren’t going away.
“We liked our chances but we knew Glidden would make some adjustments,” said Christiansen. “It was just a matter of once we recognized those adjustments, adjusting to them. They made some good plays to get back into the game.”
And get back into the game the Wildcats did. A Mitchell Lensch touchdown scamper from two-yards out cut the lead to 14-7. After forcing a Knight punt, quarterback B.J. Anthofer broke loose for a 17-yard game-tying touchdown just before the end of the quarter.
Neither team could must much offense in the fourth.
“We had our chances in the fourth quarter but we couldn’t quite knock it in to not go into overtime,” said Christiansen.
The Knights took the ball first in the overtime and gained two yards total on the first two downs before Scarborough found Carlson running free along the goal line for the game-winning score.
“We didn’t get anything done on first or second down but A.J. (Scarborough) rolled out and he was able to find Joey,” said Christiansen.
Glidden had its shots from the 10 to follow but a fourth down pass by Anthofer was knocked down by a Knight defender at the line of scrimmage to end to the game.
The Knight defense was strong all night holding the Wildcats to 205 total yards and forcing two turnovers. Eight Knights had at least 10 tackles in the game.
“They came to play. You take two drives out that came right after some heartbreaking penalties and we responded. Take those two scoring drives out and we played almost perfect defensive football.”
The Knights finished with a season-low 183 yards offense but were hamstrung by penalties all night. Fremont-Mills committed a season-high 13 penalties and three touchdowns of more than 40 yards negated by flags.
“The first half we moved the ball pretty well but we have three big plays called back on penalties. We felt like there were a lot of yards we left out there. There were a string of plays we had six straight penalties,” said Christiansen.
Christiansen called the game with the Wildcats the most physical his team has been involved with this season.
“They came out and stuck you. This was a hard fought ball game.”
Up next for the Knights is defending state champion Armstrong-Ringsted in Thursday’s semifinals at 1 p.m. The 12-0 Mustangs are ranked No. 1 in the state and have won 37 of their last 39 games.
“They do a lot of things that are fundamentally sound,” said Christiansen. “Their defense is a 3-3 with their three linebackers right within two yards of the line of scrimmage. They try and force you into being uncomfortably.”
Offensively, the Wildcat double-wing offense is led by 6-foot-5 quarterback Spencer Clausen who, operating mostly out of the shotgun, has thrown for 1,164 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 760 on the ground and 15 scores. Christiansen sees similarities to Corner Conference foes East Mills, Stanton and Nishnabotna.
“Their offensive scheme resembles Nishnabotna’s double-wing look, their option ability resembles East Mills and they run the ball efficiently like Stanton,” said Christiansen.