The North Lincoln Knights christened their new stadium with a win Friday night versus the Christ High School Greenies 22-14.
The Knightsâ€™ stadium, nicknamed the Dungeon, was filled to capacity on the home side. In the first quarter, though, North Lincolnâ€™s fans didnâ€™t have much to cheer about.
The Knights were able to move the football in first, but didnâ€™t capitalize when given the opportunity.
North Lincoln moved the football inside the Greeniesâ€™ 10-yard line, but was unable to score as a fourth-down touch pass to the back of the end zone from quarterback Trent Hopkins fell incomplete hitting his receiver in the numbers before falling to the ground.
Midway through the second quarter, Hopkins hooked up with Pablo Arguelles for a 19-yard catch. After an incomplete pass, North was aided by a mental mistake by one of the Greenies. Facing a fourth and five on the Greeniesâ€™ 35-yard line, a player jumped offsides giving the Knights a first down.
It didnâ€™t take long for the Knights to capitalize with Hopkins hitting Devin Borders for a 30-yard connection on a fade route. The long pass play set up Hopkins to score the first touchdown in school history and culminated a nine-play drive.
The Greenies quickly answered as Steven Hekaros returned the kickoff 40 yards. A 15-yard facemask call gave them the ball on the 15-yard line. Quarterback Filmon Dawkins played the role of opportunist carrying the ball in for a touchdown tying the game at six. He then gave the Greenies an 8-6 advantage scoring a two-point conversion.
On the first drive of the second half, Hopkins made the biggest play of the game. The quarterback faked the handoff then eluded a couple of defenders then hit the left sideline on his way to a 43-yard touchdown. Hopkins then ran in a two-point conversion to give the Knights a 14-8 lead 30 seconds into the third quarter.
â€œIâ€™ve never had one that long. That was incredible man, running down the sidelines thinking is somebody going to catch me. Oh my goodness, I just had to jetâ€”Iâ€™ve never had a feeling like that,â€ Hopkins said of his longest ever running play.
Christ High answered on the next drive as Dawkins hit Hal Brewster for an 8-yard touchdown reception. With the score deadlocked at 14, safety Brian Funk came off the end to block the extra point.
In the fourth quarter, the Greenies turned the ball back over to North Lincoln on the first possession. After a 12-yard run by tailback Brandon Mull, Hopkins found Arguelles on a go-route for a 37-yard touchdown. The play capped an eight-play drive. Hopkins then scored the two-point conversion to put his team up 22-14.
The Knights, aware that victory was only nine and a half minutes away, went to ball-control running offense. The scheme worked to perfection with Mull running for 43 yards on the final possession and Hopkins running for 27.
Northâ€™s running back Todd Eaton had suffered from food poisoning all last week and was clearly not himself. Mull though made the most of his playing time stepping up with nine carries for 55 yards and making nine catches for 88 yards.
â€œHe came in the game for Todd and he plowed over some guys, juked some guysâ€”he was awesome,â€ Hopkins said.
More importantly the Knights, behind solid blocking by Justin and Aaron Mintun, David Bora, Phillip Schronce and Bradley Smith, were able to run the clock out securing their first victory of the season and matching last yearâ€™s win total.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jason Barnes cited Funk, Bora and Mull for having a good game.
Offensively, the Knights amassed 426 yards, with 224 of them coming via the ground.
North head coach Lonnie Custer was proud of his sophomore quarterback Hopkins, who played beyond his years. Hopkins finished with 14 carries for 117 yards along with two touchdowns and was 16-25 passing for 202 yards with one touchdown.
â€œTrent played great. The offensive line blocked so well for him and he did a great job reading his blocks. When he had time, he threw the ball well. Heâ€™s a great leader and really what we need for this offense,â€ he said.
Hopkins was on an euphoric high after the game, but said he knew where his help comes from.
â€œThere is no way I would do anything I did tonight. Two touchdowns, no wayâ€¦ touchdown pass, no way. He (the Lord) gives me every single strength I have, every ability. Everyday I get better, itâ€™s because of Him,â€ he said.
Mull led the team with nine catches, while teammate Arguelles caught two balls for 55 yards and had the first receiving touchdown in the new confines.
Custer believes his team has a long way to go, but felt theyâ€™ve passed the initial test.
â€œWe talked all off-season about this day as being a big test for us. I thought we did a great job defending our home turf. The kids did a great job, fan support was unbelievable and the administration did a great job getting everything ready.â€
For Hopkins playing in front of 2,500 fans in his first home game was a dream come true.
â€œComing in and seeing these whole stands filled up right here and people just going crazy cheering for you out there playing. It was awesome.â€
The Knights are 1-0 and will next face Charlotte Christian this Friday.
by John Mark Brooks