The Ship Has Sailed

A 41-yard Field Goal Brings a Swift End to the Elkhorn Football Season


Mason Beister

Senior Connor Fedde carries the ball while being tackled by a GI Northwest Player. The Antlers lost the first round playoff game 24-21.

Thousands stood in silence, not knowing how to feel. As senior kicker Peyton Atwood celebrated with his Grand Island Northwest Vikings after clinching an upset win, helmets lay on the ground from the Elkhorn Antler players who slammed them out of frustration, shock, and dejection.

Many aspects of this game were foreign to the Antlers, including a 4:00 PM kickoff time, but for Grand Island Northwest Head Coach Kevin Stein, this was not a nuisance in the slightest.

“We are used to playing at these unusual times,” Stein said before the game. “With that, we have had six road games as well. This is a mentality we have learned to embrace.”

The display Stein’s team put on the field on that Friday afternoon made his comments reputable.
Even though both teams were ranked statistically in the top three of Class B offenses by yards and scoring, the first half of play negated the prospect of a scoring shootout. Nine drives, no red zones, and no scores in the first half of play.

Both teams went to their respective locker rooms with a tied score at 0-0. Before kickoff, the prospect of this score at halftime was statistically fictitious.

The dominoes quickly began to fall 1:42 into the second half, a drive sustained by a 75-yard kickoff return and a Tyler Douglass rush put points on the board. The Vikings took a 7-0 lead and now the Antlers were on their heels.

A 12-play drive from the Antlers followed and capped off with a Connor Hunt goal line plunge into the endzone. The score then 7-7, both teams found their footing after a first half that resembled a fluke for both sides.

Grand Island Northwest’s leading Tegan Lemkau responded afterwards with an 83-yard reception to the end zone from an Austin Payne pass. The Vikings remained valiant with a 14-7 lead.
A rollout pass from Connor Hunt to Cooper Fedde after an 18-play drive tied up the game at 14-14. The long and sustained drives from the Antlers throughout the game soon exacerbated clock management issues for both sides.

Stout defense appeared from both sides again as both teams traded scoreless possessions of a forced punt and KJ Schenck being short of the first down marker on a fourth and one on an Antler drive.
Grand Island Northwest, with time of the essence, drove down the field and scored off a 5-yard Austin Payne quarterback sneak to the pylon to give the Vikings a 21-14 lead. With 1:34 left, both teams felt a tension that made it feel as if it were eons before the clock hit zero.

The Antlers made their way into the red zone until a holding call on Jaxson Ninete pushed the Antlers back to the Viking 23 yardline on a third down. A pass to the back right corner of the endzone found Cole Houck for a score to tie the game up at 21-21.

Grand Island Northwest trudged up the field with 49 seconds remaining. Time was dire, and the Vikings made their way to Antler territory.

A bold decision was made by Kevin Stein to send out his kicker, Peyton Atwood, for a 41-yard field goal attempt. Despite the attempt from Elkhorn Head Coach Dan Feickert to ice Atwood, the kick split the uprights to give Northwest a 24-21 lead.

The Antlers had two plays to put together some sort of score to keep their season alive. The ball would drop, literally, out of the hands of Elkhorn receiver Andrew Salvatore as the clock ran out.
The season ended for the Antlers in shock in a 24-21 defeat. Silent the fans were on one end, jubilant the other.

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