By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Seemingly about to lose a heartbreaking conference home game against Wisconsin Lutheran, the St. Norbert College football team showed it has comeback abilities.
Trailing 32-31 with time running down, quarterback Peyton Lyon hit Paul Bageanis with a 47-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining to help the Green Knights win a wild, 37-32 Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) game on Sept. 16 at Schneider Stadium in De Pere.
“That’s the craziest game I’ve ever played in,” Bageanis said. “It was a great throw by Peyton — it was kind of a Hail Mary play we’ve run in practice. Peyton has a great arm, and he gave me a chance to catch it.”
Lyon said he had complete faith in his teammates and coaches on the game-winning drive.
“It was an emotional game,” he said. “It was easy to go up and down — there were times we put up lots of points and then other times we went three-and-out.”
Lyon said his teammates were calm in the huddle needing the final score.
“I have complete faith in my receivers and offensive lineman — it wasn’t like I just chucked it up there and hoped for the best,” he said. “As soon as the ball left my hands, I had a good feeling about it — it felt good.”
St. Norbert began the final drive on its 31-yard line with 43 seconds remaining.
After Lyon hit Owen Kudick and Austin Miller on back-to-back pass play, the Green Knights were at the Wisconsin Lutheran 47, setting up the final TD two plays later.
“I’m happy we won,” Coach Dan McCarty said. “That was a big-time play and a big-time throw by Peyton — we executed. We have a lot to clean up, but I’m overjoyed we pulled out the win.”
What makes the win even more improbable is the fact St. Norbert led 31-20 late in the game before the Warriors scored a pair of touchdowns in a nine-second span to jump ahead 32-31.
Wisconsin Lutheran pulled within 31-26 with 52 seconds remaining before recovering the ensuing onside kick.
On the first play after recovering the kick, Warriors quarterback Bryce Barbian connected with Emmitt Hawkins on a 38-yard TD pass with 43 seconds showing on the clock.
In a wild fourth quarter, the teams combined for 38 points — 19 by each team.
The 32 points allowed by the Green Knights defense comes on the heels of allowing 31 in a nonconference loss at Stevens Point on Sept. 9.
“That’s two weeks in a row we’ve given up quite a few points, which is something traditionally we haven’t done here,” McCarty said. “But at the end of the day, we got the win.”
Both teams had difficulty stopping the opposing offense — with St. Norbert amassing 530 yards of total offense (74 plays) while Wisconsin Lutheran gained 453 yards (80 plays).
As part of the big offensive output from the Green Knights, Kewaunee High School alumnus Owen Kudick gained 261 yards of total offense with two touchdowns.
The senior running back bruised his way to 170 yards rushing on 20 carries and hauled in three receptions for another 91 yards.
“I challenged Owen last week, and he responded this week — in a big way,” McCarty said. “We run with the two-back system — it’s a long season, so we need both Owen and (Delton) Zuleger. We haven’t rushed the ball a lot in the first two games, but today we did — that’s what Wisconsin Lutheran gave us.”
St. Norbert rushed for 279 yards while Lyon was 15-of-25 for 251 yards passing.
The Green Knights struck first when Lyon connected with Bageanis on a seven-yard TD pass late in the first quarter.
After the Warriors jumped ahead 7-6 two minutes later, Zuleger scored the first of his two TDs on a 14-yard run early in the second quarter.
A key moment in the game came late in the first half with Wisconsin Lutheran driving, trailing 12-6.
Failing to score six points despite having a few cracks from the three-yard line, the Warriors lined up for a field goal with seconds remaining.
Arnulfo Ortega’s 20-yard attempt was blocked by Bryan Boockmeier to end the half.
“That was a big play — a huge defensive stand,” McCarty said. “For our defensive to hold them there, that was huge.”
Zuleger rushed for another score (nine yards) in the third quarter before Kudick hauled in a 56-yard TD pass from Lyon to make it 25-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Kudick gave St. Norbert a 31-20 lead with 5:15 remaining, setting up the wild finish.
Defensively, Kyle Santos had 10 total tackles; Logan Dorner collected seven; Oliver Sgrignuoli had two sacks; and Daylan Lujan recorded 1.5 sacks.
The Green Knights are back in action on Sept. 23 when they travel to Eureka for another NACC game.