No, We're No. 1
By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC Staff Writer
That was all the motivation the Wellington-Napoleon Tigers needed Friday night against Concordia in a battle of the states top-2 teams in Class 1.
The 62-8 score was the final of last year’s game in which Concordia showed no mercy against the Tigers, but they got their revenge with a 48-32 win at home Friday night and will likely take over the top ranking in the state next week.
“We’ve been dreading that game this whole year,” Wellington-Napoleon senior Nathan Arndt said when recalling last season’s game. “We weren’t going to lose this game, not on homecoming, not on our home field.”
“Last year was horrible,” added quarterback Jacob Beckemeyer. “We’ve been thinking about it all year. We wanted to prove to people that we were better than that.”
The two teams came into the contest averaging a combined 106 points per game and the offenses didn’t disappoint.
But the difference on this night would be the spread offense of Wellington-Napoleon, as the Orioles never had an answer for Beckemeyer and his multiple weapons. After falling behind 8-0, the Tigers never lost the lead and went ahead by as many as 24 points.
“We’d like to just give up the underneath stuff and play solid gap defense and avoid the big plays,” Orioles head coach John Cox said of the defenses game plan against the spread. “But we had to take risks and it backfired. We like to control the ball and we couldn’t do that when we got down.”
The key stretch was 20 straight points by the Tigers that spanned about five minutes from the end of the first quarter to the start of the second. Beckemeyer connected with Brandon Niendick for two scores from nine and 47 yards out, respectively, and Arndt scored the other touchdown on a 21-yard run.
That made it 20-8, but in between those last two scores were some mistakes by Concordia in the way of a three-and-out and fumble that helped put the Tigers in control.
Wellington also got an interception on its own 2-yard line on the games first drive.
“Turnovers were the game,” Arndt said.
Added Cox of the turnovers, “You can’t have them. It swings the emotion of runs you find in a big game. I always felt like we were trying to catch up.”
The Orioles would get as close as 20-16 in the second quarter but the Tigers would score four of the next five touchdowns – three more of them coming in the air to Niendick – as the Tiger offense found a rhythm.
“When we get going, we’re going fast. We want to get them on their tails,” Beckemeyer said. “We have an awesome offensive line … and Arndt is a great running back. If they would try and stop the pass, we’d run, and if they tried to stop the run, we’d pass. It’s awesome what we have.”
Not to be overlooked was the play of the Tiger defense, as they forced two more punts, a turnover on downs and recovered a fumble in the second half.
“Defensively, to hold them down the way we did, I’m overly impressed,” Tigers head coach Quenton Bainbridge said. “We made them run 10-to-15 plays to score.”
“We just kept going hard (on defense),” Arndt said. “We dug deep. We wanted respect back from last year.”
The loss snapped a 15-game regular season winning streak for Concordia and dropped them to 5-1 on the season, while Wellington-Napoleon improved to 6-0.
More importantly, they proved they’re for real to anybody who was left doubting.
“After last year people were saying how we weren’t going to hang with them and we weren’t going to be in the game,” Beckemeyer said.
But Beckemeyer knows this win won’t mean a thing once the playoffs start. The key for the Tigers now is to make sure the win doesn’t turn into overconfidence.
“We can’t let off at all. We have bigger goals than this,” he said.
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