Remembering how the Knights repelled the Raiders

With a state playoff berth hanging in the balance, August McCollum and the Mac defense held its ground and saved the season

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Dave Winter

McCollum's interception near the Knight end zone repelled the Raiders and kept the score 10-0 heading into halftime.

Anna McClellan and Dave Winter

McCallum’s 10-6 victory over Northeast was perhaps the finest moment of the 2019 football season.

Trailing the Raiders by a game in the district standings, the Knights were in fifth place in the district and desperately needed a win if they were to play in the state playoffs. When Caleb Brown carried the load for the Knight offense on an impressive first-quarter drive that culminated with his 6-yard touchdown run, it looked like the Knights had the upper hand.

But the Raiders, who came into the game on a two-game winning streak, hung tough. After Silvio Guzman extended the Knight lead to 10-0 with a 23-yard field goal, Northeast quarterback David Rivera beat the Knights deep with a 41-yard pass to De’Corey Eason giving the Raiders first-and-goal inside the Knight 10 near the end of the half.

On the next play, however, senior linebacker August McCollum intercepted Rivera to repel the Raiders and keep them off the scoreboard. After the game, McCollum joked that it was the first time he had touched the football in a game since middle school.

In the third quarter, McCollum became a running back on a successful fake punt when senior punter Alvino Carbajal became a football thespian leaping high into the air to make it appear that the snap sailed over his head. Meanwhile, McCollum carried the ball for a key first down.

Unfortunately, the Knight offense stalled inside the Raider 10-yard line turning the ball over on downs. The Knight defense was equally stingy as Ez Guenther turned away a Raider drive with another Rivera INT.  Raider running back Kawaski Latham dashed 74 yards for a Northeast touchdown run cut the lead to 10-6 with just over three minutes left in the third, but the Raiders’ PAT attempt was blocked, keeping the Knight lead at four points heading into the fourth quarter.

It got tense for the Knights in the final quarter. The offense could not mount a scoring drive, and the Raider offense kept threatening to score what would be a game-winning touchdown. Rivera connected again on a big pass play, a 40-yard completion to Nick Hernandez, which put the Raiders on the doorstop of a comeback win that would propel them to the state playoffs, but the Knight defense created another Raider turnover, this time a Rivera fumble that junior defensive lineman Connor Boggs recovered on the Knight 24-yard line.

But Rivera and the Raiders were stubborn foes and as the game neared its end, the Raiders mounted one more drive for the winning score. 

After reaching the 11-yard line and throwing an incomplete pass near the end zone, the Raiders had time for one more try at the end zone, and that’s when Carbajal, a three-way player whose best position is defensive lineman, made one of the most significant sacks of his high school career.

With his receivers covered, Rivera improvised leaving the pocket and appeared to have a chance to rush for the game-winning score, but Carbajal wrapped up Rivera and the game with a sack that propelled the Knights into a playoff spot after they defeated Crockett and Travis to end the regular season with a three-game win streak.

“They did a great job over there. They gave us a hard time,” head coach Thomas Gammerdinger told the Statesman after the game. “I’m really proud of the way our kids competed the whole time. We made about as many mistakes as we could possibly make, and we let them stay around and we let them stay around. We just found a way to make plays at the end of the game. You have to give all the credit in the world to our kids for the mental toughness, physical toughness, and the guts they showed down the stretch.”

Among the players deserving game balls was McCollum who in addition to recording an interception and first-down run on a fake punt hounded Raider ball carriers all game long.

We were going to share our interview with McCollum as part of our #MACfall19semesterreview on Dec. 31, but we ran out of time and numbers before we could get it ready to post. But seeing as many of you are in a football mode today with New Year’s Day bowl games and with the Mac football banquet coming up on Jan. 12, we are going to publish it here today.

Interview and photos by Anna McClellan. Video and photos by Dave Winter.