Monday, October 26, 2009

Carleton Football

Ever since I walked onto the practice field in the fall of 1982 I have cheered passionately for Carleton Knights’ football. As a player I gave four years of my life to the team. I played in the era when Carleton transitioned from the Midwest Conference to the M.I.A.C., a difficult switch that caused us to lose many more games than if we hadn’t made the change. Changing conferences changed our expectations—we deemed our 1985 season a success when we won four conference games. That season was a success for me personally as I was one of the captains of the team and achieved All-Conference status. That season also launched a golden era of nine years for Carleton football where we averaged six victories a year, beat St. Olaf every year but one, and won a conference championship.

This past Saturday Amy, Hannah, and I drove to Laird Stadium in Northfield to watch Carleton host the St. Thomas Tommies. My nephew, Adam Henning joined us. He attends St. Thomas, and we are developing a new tradition of watching the Carleton/St. Thomas game every year.

I went to the game thinking that Carleton would get waxed—I put the line at 17 points for St. Thomas. The game didn’t start out well for the Knights as St. Thomas scored on the opening kick-off and then quickly scored again. About halfway through the first quarter we were down 14-0, and I was thinking that St. Thomas might win by forty.

But Carleton didn’t give in. We scored a touchdown and then right after halftime scored another to tie the game. Suddenly the possibility of an upset was dancing in my brain. Kurt Ramler, the Carleton coach, then strategically called an on-side kick. It was a brilliant call and initially it seemed that Carleton had recovered, but somehow St. Thomas was given the ball. I would like to see that play on instant replay.

St. Thomas is one of the best teams in the M.I.A.C. They are well coached and have quality athletes. With the scent of an upset in the air they adjusted by changing quarterbacks and by running the option. Our defense couldn’t tackle the new quarterback and couldn’t defend the option. St. Thomas scored on five straight possessions. Carleton didn’t give up and the game wasn’t lost until the Tommies scored their last touchdown with less than two minutes to play. Final score: St. Thomas 48 Carleton 28.

Football is a game of passion—that’s one reason I loved playing it. Even as a fan my passion can overtake me. Carleton didn’t lose the game because of the officiating, but we had about six judgment calls that went against us. On one fourth down incompletion a St. Thomas defensive back pushed a Knight receiver right in front of the official. It was clearly interference—in my mind. I loudly let the official (who couldn’t hear me) know what I thought of the call. I didn’t use language that would make anyone in my congregation blush, but it’s fair to say the tone of my voice was full of energy. Hannah was taken aback by my sudden expression of fury. Most of the time I am mild-mannered, but as I said football is a game of passion—and I am passionate about Carleton football.

Kurt Ramler has the Knights moving in the right direction. Even without a senior class he put a scare into St. Thomas. Even when the game appeared lost, the Knights didn’t give up. The future is bright for Carleton Knights’ football.
And I can hardly think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon then attending a game at Laird Stadium.

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