Sioux Falls O’Gorman running back Tate Wishard thundered for 158 yards and five touchdowns while quarterback Teegan Schlimgen completed 13 of 20 passes for 197 yards and two scores as the second-ranked Knights knocked off Rapid City Stevens 56-20 at O’Harra Stadium.
The loss spoiled the debut for Raider head coach Steve Svendsen, who saw his team flash its potential against a disciplined, well-rounded O’Gorman team.
“Shoot, the effort was there. I'm not questioning that at all,” Svendsen said. “It's a good starting point for us. We've played No. 2 team in the state and we played them pretty competitively.”
O’Gorman coach Jayson Poppinga was pleased with the disciplined effort he got from his team.
Wishard kept his legs churning, often making yards after contact at the line of scrimmage. Schlimgen completed passes to six different receivers in his debut at quarterback. The Knights’ defense forced two turnovers and turned both into touchdowns. Cornerbacks Kaden Hackman and Jacob Byrd defended passes that stopped Stevens’ drives throughout the night.
“We like to be multi-disciplined and spread the ball around,” Poppinga said. “We have a lot of playmakers. It's fun to watch them go out and spread the ball and make moves, be themselves out there and have some fun.”
The final score didn’t indicate how close the Raiders were through just short of three quarters of Svendsen’s debut as head football coach at Stevens.
The Raiders fell behind 21-0 after O’Gorman scored on three straight possessions through the heart of the first half before trading scores with the Knights over a 12-minute stretch at the end of the second quarter and through much of the third.
Stevens shook off the nerves and miscues that plagued it for much of the first half when Colton Hartford led the Raiders on a sharp seven-play, 79-yard drive that provided the team with a boost of much-needed confidence. Hartford hit Bransen Kuehl on a fade route to the left corner for a 9-yard TD to make it a 21-7 game with seven ticks left in the second quarter.
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“We were a little tentative right away. We talked about weathering that storm and playing through it,” Svendsen said. “But that's just us getting comfortable with the system and understanding. There's going to be times when you're not sure of how everything's going to work out.”
Once on the scoreboard, Stevens traded scores with O’Gorman throughout the third quarter.
O’Gorman went 61 yards on six plays to open the second half, a drive Wishard finished with a 1-yard TD scamper around left end. Stevens answered right back with a six-play drive of its own. Hartford capped that drive with a 14-yard TD toss to Bridger Nesbit to get the Raiders within 28-14.
The Knights extended their string of scoring drives to five straight when Wishard broke loose for a 39-yard gain and closed the drive with an 8-yard scoring run to make it 35-14 with 3:11 left in the third quarter. Hartford again connected with Kuehl, this time with a perfect throw 20 yards up field on a crossing route that the speedy wide receiver turned into an 80-yard touchdown.
Stevens appeared to have O’Gorman stopped deep in its territory on the next Knight possession, but a pass interference call breathed new life into the drive. Schlimgen hit Jacob Byrd with a 17-yard scoring strike to push O’Gorman up 42-20 after three quarters.
Wishard turned an Alex Kowalczyk interception into his fifth TD of the game, dragging a Stevens’ defender about 10 yards before reaching paydirt, to finally break the Raiders.
“Hats off to our offense,” Poppinga said. “We basically answered point for point there at the end of the half and first part of the third quarter.”
The game was delayed for an hour when cloud-to-ground lightning from a thunderstorm was detected. The teams were headed onto the field for the opening kickoff when the game was halted.
Stevens (0-1) returns to action at 5 p.m. Friday playing Watertown in the opening game of the annual Rushmore Bowl.