When it was done Friday they knelt at the 40 on the pocked October grass, helmets still on, a lot of them, nobody saying much. At their backs, off to the north, the Zollner Stadium scoreboard had already gone dark; in front of them stood their coach, Kyle Lindsay, already moving on from what had been written there.
Positives, he said to his Bishop Luers Knights.
And then he told history to hit the bricks, that 0-9 was gone now, that the latest defeat – Bishop Dwenger 36, Bishop Luers 2 – was gone. These Knights were 0-0 as of this moment, same as everyone else in the state. And they had a chance, if they were willing to put their backs into it, to turn all the sour history of this autumn inside-out.
We can be the first 0-9 team to win some kind of championship, Lindsay said.
And here again was something to hang onto, in a season when hanging onto the smallest of scraps was the only way to get through it. Everyone knows the deal now: A year after winning its fourth straight state title and its 10th overall, the Knights said goodbye to 20 seniors, then proceeded to go winless in the regular season for the first time ever. You have to go all the way back to 1978, when they went 2-7, to find anything remotely close.
So this has been unprecedented. And yet, again, here was Lindsay, talking about positives.
You know, I’m proud of the team, and the fact that I don’t think at any point we’ve given up and really hung our heads and felt sorry for ourselves, he said. The challenge for us has been the consistency, getting it every day.
It’s been a roller coaster, up and down. Emotionally, I think we’re very young. And they’re learning on the fly.
And, no, it has not all been grim times. The Knights have been in some games – they lost in overtime to Northrop and South Side, fought Wayne and Concordia to the end, scored 27 against a Columbus Hartley team that handled the Knights’ state championship team 40-7 a year ago – and even the blowouts had their moments.
The Knights led early against Leo, before the Lions pulled away to win 34-7. Four turnovers killed them against North Side, a 38-17 loss.
And Friday night?
Dwenger blew downfield on its first possession like something was bad after it, and it was 7-0 barely 90 seconds in. But the Saints lost their way for a while after that, and Luers made a few stops, and suddenly here was a snap eluding Dwenger quarterback Mike Fiacable, bouncing back into the end zone.
A pile of Luers white shirts charged after it. At the last second, Fiacable managed to cover it to save the six, but 7-0 was now 7-2.
It never got better than that, of course. Early in the second, Fiacable, who threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns, found Ryan Watercutter for a 47-yard touchdown. Then he ran 14 yards for another score. Then he found a wide-open Gabe Espinoza with a 54-yard bomb for six more. And so it went.
There have been a couple weeks where we probably did feel sorry for ourselves, Lindsay would say later. Overall, though, they’ve come out, they’ve given us effort, they’ve done what we asked them to do. And the good news is, we’re starting over now.
With a slate as blank as that scoreboard.