Macalester Scots Claim North Division Title in 21-13 Win
Two seasons ago the Macalester Scots were looking for a new conference to join after spending a decade as independents in football. They finally settled on the Midwest Conference (MWC) as their new home. Who would have known that in their first season the Scots would be such rude guests?
Macalester traveled to Wisconsin for Saturday’s game against St. Norbert College with one reality staring them in the face. A win and they would be North Division champions. A loss and they would be relegated to second. They needed to win in a place that not many have found success. The Green Knights had lost just one game in the last three seasons at home, and just two in their last five. If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, it was Senior Day, and there was no doubt that the seniors at St. Norbert were going to give their all in their last home game of their college careers.
The Scots entered the game on a six-game win streak, and they were coming off a huge victory over No. 24 ranked Carroll University. That vaulted Macalester into first place, but the Scots Coach, Tony Jennison, had some concerns. Not only was there the worry of a letdown after such a huge victory, but he was concerned his team had gotten a little conceited after the victory. He wanted them to understand that this contest was quite possibly more challenging than the previous week’s, and his message was that if they did not bring their “A” game, all that hard work was going to go for not. Message heard, message understood, plan implemented.
Macalester began the game by proving that they were not going to be intimidated by the St. Norbert home field advantage. They took the opening kickoff and moved 10-plays down to the Green Knights 25. There the drive stalled and the team decided to go for the 43-yard field goal attempt, but it was unsuccessful keeping the game scoreless.
The Green Knights had possession of the ball, but the defense for Macalester held them down and forced a three-n-out after three straight incomplete passes. That gave the ball to the Scots at their own 37, but after three plays they were forced to punt as well. The Green Knights were unable to do much with their second possession either and a little over ten minutes into the game the score remained tied at zero.
With the ball at their own 32, it was time for senior QB Samson Bialostok to show why he is one of the leading candidates in the conference for MVP honors. The senior’s first pass of the drive fell incomplete, but on third and eight he scampered for 19-yards and a first down at the St. Norbert 47. Bialostok then kept the ball again and raced all the way for the touchdown on a gutsy run that put the Scots up 7-0.
On the Green Knights next possession they were able to move the ball, going 47-yards in eight plays down to the Scots two-yard line. On fourth and goal at the two they decided to go for it and scored, but a pass interference call negated the touchdown and moved the team back to the 17-yard line. They still decided they would go for it, but this time QB James Tringali was tracked down by senior linebacker Reid Callahan and dropped for an 11-yard loss.
The Scots had the ball at their own 28, and looked like they were going to mount another big drive. RB Zandy Stowell gained four-yards on first down, and Bialostok continued to find room to run, gaining 18 more on the next play to put the ball at midfield. The drive stalled there however, and the team was forced to punt. Matt Glasenapp took the snap but Dan Egan was able to block it. Zach Klarkowski recovered and went the distance to tie the score. A game the Scots had been dominating was now tied.
With the score 7-7, the Scots turned to a plan that has become a trademark of the team. In the last month, Macalester has frequently taken a lead only to see the score get tied, often on plays that would have crushed most teams like blocked punts and big-yardage plays. The offense has shown an incredible amount of character by dashing opponent’s hopes following touchdown drives that made the score close or tied. The way they have done it is by using their old reliable; their patented ten-plus play drives. Saturday was no exception.
A lot of teams would have been down about the block punt return for a touchdown, and maybe a season ago the Scots would have been too, but this is the new Macalester Scots. This is the team that knows they can win anytime they take the field. This is an offense that knows it can grind the ball out and wear down a defense. That is exactly what they did.
Macalester took the ball at their own 21 and let their junior running back grind it out. Stowell carried the ball on each of the first three plays, gaining a total of 26 yards. Three plays later the team turned back to the junior who rushed twice more for 11-yards and a first down. That put the ball at the Green Knights 32. Bialostok had not been having a great day passing to this point, but he came up big here, hitting his big-play receiver, Victor Bordo, for a 32-yard touchdown. That gave the Scots a seven-point lead again. They would not give up the lead again.
The third quarter began with the score 14-7, and neither team was able to mount much of an attack in the period. In fact, it was a quarter of miscues that nearly cost both teams the game. Macalester’s first drive of the second half ended with another blocked punt, this time by Bison Woods. That gave the ball to the Green Knights at the Scots 40, however, Tringali’s first pass was intercepted by Nate Yordy and returned to the Macalester 29-yard line.
The visitors could not do much with their next drive, and were forced to punt again. This time St. Norbert was not to be denied. They moved 76-yards on 11-plays down to the Macalester five. They had been first and goal at the six, but three straight plays had yielded just one yard, so they went for the 23-yard field goal which was good, and the score was 14-10.
In the fourth quarter the Green Knights got another field goal less than two minutes into the fourth. It was a one-point game and had the earmarks of a St. Norbert comeback. You know what it’s time for?
The 15-play drive began at the Macalester 28-yard line, and Stowell continually saw his number called. The running back carried the ball on the first six-plays, moving the ball 27-yards. Following an incomplete pass, Stowell found himself with the ball in his hands in five of the next seven plays. He had 11-carries for 42-yards on the drive and his last carry had moved the ball to the two where it was first and goal. From there, Bialostok kept the ball on a quarterback keeper and scored to put the Scots back up by eight. The drive went 72-yards and took 7:49 off of the clock, but there was still 5:16 left in the game. Plenty of time for the Green Knights to get back into it. It was time for the Scots defense to make a stand.
The Green Knights began at their 33, and following a holding call they were moved back five yards. That allowed Defensive Coordinator Marshall Mullenbach to unleash his defense on Tringali. On the first and 15 play Jacob Lueck sacked the Green Knights quarterback for a seven-yard loss. Two plays later it was Callahan dropping Tringali with a 10-yard sack, forcing a punt.
The Scots had the ball with 3:16 left, and were looking for the dagger to lock this game up, but on the third play of the drive, Bialostok was intercepted, giving the Green Knights great field position at the Macalester 34. If there was ever a time for Callahan and his crew to step up, it was right now.
Tringali completed his first pass of the drive for five-yards, and then ran on the second play of the drive for five more and a first down. From the 24 the home team took a holding call to make it first and 20. The QB’s first down pass was completed for eight yards, setting up a second and 12 at the 26. Just 26-yards away from a chance to tie the game up. Tringali went back to pass and decided he was going for the score right then, but CB Konnor Fleming made a brilliant play to pick off the pass and seal the victory. Three kneel downs later the Scots were North Division champions. Just in case that did not sink in, the Macalester Scots are now North Division champions in the Midwest Conference.
It was another huge day for the Scots on the ground. They rolled up 244 rushing yards, with Stowell carrying the ball 36 times for 143 yards. Bialostok had 13 carries for 113 yards and two scores, and he completed 8 of his 16 passes for 122 yards and another score. Victor Bordo was the big receiver on the day, with two catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
While the offense was pounding the rock, the defense had another incredible day. Entering the game they ranked 24th in Division-III football, and they showed why as they only gave up 218 total yards, just 71 on the ground. The Green Knights were 2 of 11 on third down conversions, and had the ball for just 22:48.
Konnor Fleming had another huge game for Macalester, leading the team in tackles with nine, and his interception sealed the victory. Reid Callahan had five tackles, including three huge sacks. The Scots also got interceptions from Bolton Howes and Nate Yordy.
The victory was an especially sweet one for Coach Jennison. This now moves his career coaching mark to 32-31. He is over .500 for the first time in his coaching career, and with the way his team is playing it is likely he will ever be below .500 again.
The North Division champion Macalester Scots will travel to Illinois College next Saturday in a battle for the MWC title. The winner will automatically gain a birth in the NCAA Division-III playoffs. The Blueboys are 7-2 on the season, and are also 5-0 in their division. Look for a preview of this game in the Minor League Sports Report on Thursday.
By Robert Pannier