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EUREKA, Illinois—The Prairie Fire football team won in dramatic fashion on Saturday night with a last minute victory over Eureka.
Knox (1-0) defeated the Red Devils to reclaim the Lincoln trophy for the first time since 2014. The Prairie Fire played spoiler to the grand theatrics surrounding the opening of Eureka’s new football facility, a day dubbed “The Great American Eureka College Football Day.”
The Red Devils kicked off the scoring with a touchdown just over two minutes into the game. Knox countered with a touchdown of their own when Braeden Westfall (Rock Falls, IL, Rock Falls) punched it in from a yard out with 1:09 remaining in the first quarter. Eureka found the end zone again early in the second quarter and took a 14-7 lead into halftime. The Red Devils added to their lead with another touchdown at the 10:40 mark in the third quarter. The Prairie Fire responded quickly to regain the momentum when quarterback Matt McCaffrey (Wilmette, IL, New Trier)McCaffrey found first-year wideout Hunter Lee (Watseka, IL, Watseka) with an 18-yard touchdown pass just over a minute later. The next eight minutes of the game were fairly uneventful, but what followed was anything but. A flurry of turnovers, mostly by the Red Devils, changed the tide for the Prairie Fire. A Eureka fumble in the final moments of the third quarter was scooped up by Mario Whitley (St. Louis, MO, Ladue Horton Watkins) and returned for a Prairie Fire touchdown to tie the game 21-21. The Red Devils missed a field goal attempt midway through the fourth quarter in what would be their final chance at a productive possession. Within a matter of 12 seconds Eureka threw an interception, Knox followed with their own interception, and Eureka fumbled the ball with the Prairie Fire recovering. Knox capitalized on the Red Devils’ miscue to stage a 63-yard drive that ended with a rushing touchdown by Joey Auger (Rye, NH, Portsmouth) to seal the 28-21 victory.
McCaffrey completed 12-of-29 passes for 154 yard and added a team-high 109 yards rushing. Auger rushed for 30 yards and hauled in four catches for 44 yards to go along with his touchdown. He also returned four kickoffs for 97 yards to bring his total all-purpose yards up to a game-high 171. Patrick Marzolino (Orange, CA, El Modena) led Knox receivers with 56 yards.
Tyler Podwojski (Galesburg, IL, Galesburg) led the Prairie Fire with 15 total tackles, including two tackles for a loss. Isaiah Smith (Muscatine, IA, Muscatine) forced a fumble and grabbed an interception.
Knox will look to match last year’s win total when they battle Beloit in their home opener on September 9.