Nevis 14, Kingsland 12
Tigers win school’s first state title
When the kids strap on their shoulder pads in mid-August and coaches grab their clipboard and press play for another late night of watching film, the term “state champion” lingers somewhere in their minds, much like the term millionaire lingers when someone buys a lottery ticket.
It might happen…it could happen, but it likely won’t happen.
To achieve that term, to have that label plastered onto your resume for the rest of your life, so many things have to come together. When one thinks of all those things it almost seems easier for six random numbers to be drawn matching your ticket.
For the Nevis Tigers, no student-athlete in the school’s history has been able to call themselves a state champion. Until now.
A group of 32 players are now state champions after the Tigers defeated Kingsland 14-12 in the 9-player Prep Bowl.
Despite just 97 yards of total offense, the Tigers were able to hold off a Kingsland offense that gained 348 yards of total offense. A missed two-point conversion , a fumble and a fourth-down stop were the Achilles heel for Kingsland who dominated the game in most facets except for the final score.
Nevis got the ball first but quarterback Eli Lewis was sacked twice in a three and out as the Tigers were forced to punt. Kingsland opened the scoring on their first drive of the game when Kaaleem Reiland hit Ayden Howard on a 52-yard touchdown pass and after a missed two-point conversion, a 6-0 lead. With the quick score it looked as though it could be a shootout, and maybe even a blowout.
But Nevis responded with a solid drive on their next possession thanks to a solid return of 42 yards by Ayomide Ogundeji to the Nevis 49 yard-line. Lewis then hit Joe Houchin on a 48-yard pass for first and goal. Lewis then ran in for a touchdown and the extra point by Josha Sammons gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was filled with three and outs by both squads, and again it was a solid punt return that led to a scoring drive for Nevis. Houchin returned a 33-yard punt 12 yards to the Kingsland 38. Ogenduji followed with a run of six yards and a run of 32 yards for a touchdown. Another kick made it a 14-6 lead at the half.
Kingsland controlled play in the third quarter with 9:12 of possession and six first downs. Rieland capped off a 10-play 67-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. But another failed conversion kept the score 14-12.
In the fourth quarter Kingsland had the ball on the Nevis 18 when they fumbled. On their next drive with just over two minutes to go they were faced with a fourth and goal when the Nevis defense stepped up and made the stop, giving them the ball back with 2:04 to play. They needed one first down to secure the win and got it when Ogundeji scampered ahead for 11 yards. Lewis then took a knee twice to run out the clock and give the Tigers the new title of state champions.
“Defense wins championships,” Said Nevis Head Coach Shawn Klimek. “This defense made me change how I coach football.”
Lewis said he appreciated the community support. One thing that makes small town football great is that whenever there is a game the entire town usually shows up. At this game, there were even more Nevis supporters.
“Our community is great,” said Eli Lewis. “Our town has 400 people, but there was a lot more than 400 in the stands today.”
While the win gives the Nevis players and coaches a new title. It also gives the town a new slogan.
“Welcome to Nevis, Minnesota, Home of the 2023 9-Player State Champions.”
Kingsland 6 0 6 0 – 12
Nevis 7 7 0 0 – 14
Rushing: Kingsland – Beau Wiersma 28-162, Kaaleem Reiland 21-68. Nevis – Ayomide Ogejundi 17-74-TD, Eli Lewis 6-(-)8, TD.
Passing: Kingsland – Reiland 9-16-1-117-TD, Lewis 2-8-0-47.
Receiving: Ayden Howard 5-95-TD, Samuel Howard 2-12, Wiersma 2-4. Nevis – Houchin 1-48.