EUREKA, Ill. – Knox's Joey Auger scored on a 16-yard touchdown run in the final minute, capping a run of 21 unanswered points by the Prairie Fire and lifting KC to a 28-21 win over the Eureka College football team, Saturday night. The result spoiled Eureka's first game on the new FieldTurf under the lights at the newly renovated McKinzie Field.
A fumble recovery at the Knox 37 with 1:12 remaining set the stage for the visitors' game-winning scoring drive. The Prairie Fire needed only four plays and a 15-yard pass interference penalty against the Red Devils to cover 63 yards in 53 seconds. Auger sprung free up the middle of the field on 2nd-and-1 from the Eureka 16 for the game-winning score with 19 seconds to play. The Red Devils quickly pushed to the Knox 49 with nine seconds left on the ensuing series, but a heave into the end zone as time expired fell incomplete.
Eureka began Saturday's game with a flurry, taking the first possession of the night 75 yards on five plays for a quick 7-0 lead. Junior running back LeAnthony Reasnover (Momence, Ill./Momence H.S.) ran three times for 31 yards to set the tone for the series before freshman Rhett Rondinelli (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton H.S.) took his first collegiate touch 29 yards to the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 EC lead less than three minutes into the night.
The visitors punched back to tie the game 7-7 on Auger's 1-yard plunge with 1:09 left in the first period. The rush capped Knox's longest drive of the night, a 13-play, 58-yard march that chewed more than five minutes off the clock.
The Red Devils promptly regained their advantage on the following drive. Sophomore quarterback Drew Barth (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest H.S.) connected with freshman receiver Caleb Fauver (Catlin, Ill./Salt Fork H.S.) for a 10-yard gain to convert 4th-and-8 at the Knox 30. Five players later, sophomore Wesley Burris (Monmouth, Ill./Monmouth-Roseville H.S.) scored his first collegiate touchdown when he collected a 4-yard dump from Barth in the end zone. The score gave EC a 14-7 lead with 10:33 left before halftime, an advantage the Red Devils carried into intermission.
After a Knox fumble ended its first drive of the second half, Eureka quickly covered 57 yards on five plays to grab its biggest lead of the night. Rondinelli's 24-yard gain pushed EC into Knox territory. Three plays later, Rondinelli scored his second touchdown of the night on a 14-yard scamper for a 21-7 advantage with 10:40 left in the third period.
Knox went to work on its comeback bid on the next series. Facing 3rd-and-10 at the Eureka 18, quarterback Matt McCaffery found Hunter Lee for an 18-yard touchdown and a 21-14 deficit with 9:25 remaining in the third.
The Prairie Fire tied the game three possessions later when a fumbled handoff landed in the hands of KC's Mario Whitley, who returned the loose ball 26 yards for a touchdown to tie the game 21-21 with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.
Eureka was poised to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but a 28-yard field goal try from sophomore kicker Tanner Kuhne (Princeton, Ill./Princeton H.S.) struck the right upright.
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Knox and Eureka traded turnovers on three consecutive plays. Barth was intercepted by Isaiah Smith at the Knox 24 with 1:24 left, but Eureka's Josh Mead (Tampico, Ill./Bureau Valley H.S.) picked off McCaffery on the next play to regain possession at the Knox 36. With the ball and only 1:19 to go in a 21-21 tie, Eureka gave the ball away on a fumble along the sideline at the Knox 37. The turnover, Eureka's third of the night, set the stage for the Prairie Fire's game-winning drive.
Rondinelli ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns on eight rushes. Barth added 149 yards through the air on 15 completions and an additional 97 rushing yards. Reasnover entered the contest with 1,974 career rushing yards and finished Saturday's game with 88 yards to become Eureka's first 2,000-yard rusher since 2005.
Senior Ray Vogel (Bartonville, Ill./Limestone H.S.) made nine tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss to lead the Eureka defense. Senior Trever Zeibert (Monee, Ill./Peotone H.S.) added eight stops and 1.5 tackles for loss, while senior Chris Friend (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S./St. Xavier) had seven tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss.
Eureka will begin Upper Midwest Athletic Conference action next Saturday in a noon kickoff at Northwestern (Minn.).
NOTABLES: The victory is Knox's first over the Red Devils since 2014 and its first over EC at McKinzie Field since 2007 … Knox now leads the all-time series 18-9-1 … Eureka outgained Knox 446-351 … Sophomore Matt Sutton (Dunlap, Ill./Dunlap H.S.) had a team-high 48 receiving yards, one of 10 Red Devils to catch at least one pass … Sophomore Drayton Purvis (Fisher, Ill./Fisher H.S.) averaged 27.0 yards on three punts … Sophomore Trevon Moore (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley H.S.) led the Red Devils with two pass breakups … Neither team recorded a quarterback sack … Eureka committed nine penalties, four of which gave Knox a first down … Saturday's decision marked the first time in five occasions the Red Devils have lost under head coach Kurt Barth when tied after three quarters … Eureka, which led Division III in time of possession per game in 2016, had the ball for 35:02 Saturday.