August 29, 2014
By Jim Steier
Mount Michael kicked off its football season with a gritty 23-10 victory over Omaha Roncalli on the Crimson Pride’s rain-soaked field Friday night.
The Knights, who used a 13-0 advantage in the fourth quarter to pull away, were led offensively by senior Chris Riddle. The 160-pounder hauled in eight passes, including two touchdowns, while amassing 220 receiving yards.
With Mount Michael clinging to a 16-10 lead in the final minute and Roncalli driving, the Crimson Pride faced a third-and-10 on the Mount Michael 16-yard line with 1:12 remaining in regulation. Mount Michael’s Ashton Legenza sealed the win by intercepting Roncalli quarterback Noah Oswald near the goal line and racing 97 yards for a touchdown.
“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Legenza said. “I looked up and the ball was coming right to me. After I caught it, coach told me to go out of bounds, but I didn’t want to stop and so I just kept running.”
Mount Michael coach Jon Borer laughed while agreeing with Legenza’s description of the play. “After Ashton made the interception, I wanted him to go down so we could just run out the clock,” Borer chuckled. “But he used his athleticism and outraced everyone down the sideline to the end zone.”
Riddle’s eight catches included touchdown grabs of 88 and six yards. The only thing that slowed him down the entire evening was a recurring bout with leg cramps that forced him from the game on multiple occasions. Riddle also returned a punt for a touchdown in the second quarter, but the score was nullified due to a blocking in the back penalty.
“I told the boys that we were going to face adversity during the game,” Borer said. “In the first half, we had some breaks go against us and we made some mistakes. But I am so proud of these guys because they fought through that adversity, pushed forward and found a way to pull out the win.”
Jake Mumby led the Mount Michael ground attack with 63 yards on 14 carries. Alex Miklas added 21 yards on seven runs.
Mount Michael senior quarterback Jake Batenhorst went 11 for 25 passing, including the two touchdown strikes to Riddle. Batenhorst finished with 279 yards through the air.
Batenhorst, who took over the starting duties at quarterback midway through his sophomore year, was the difference as Mount Michael mounted the go-ahead, 12-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter. With the score knotted at 10-10, Mount Michael began the drive on its own 25-yard line with 7:20 remaining. On four consecutive series, Batenhorst came up big for the Knights. He hit Riddle with a 15-yard pass to the Mount Michael 40-yard line, scrambled 43 yards to the Roncalli 15, converted a fourth-and-1 situation with a quarterback sneak and then hit Riddle for a six-yard touchdown pass on a slant pattern with 3:13 left in the game.
“We worked hard in preparation for this game,” Batenhorst said. “It is a great way to start the season and we are really pumped. It was wet out there and challenging, but my offensive line gave me time to make my throws and our receivers just battled all night.”
Despite the key offensive plays, Mount Michael’s resilient defense allowed the Knights to overcome their early mistakes. Roncalli totaled 377 yards of offense, but Mount Michael got tough when it mattered most, allowing the Crimson Pride to convert only three of 13 third down plays. Miklas led the team with 12 tackles, while Ryan Anderson added nine and Garrett Raabe and Mumby each pitched in eight. Chase Goddard and Mick Steier were also key defensive players with seven and six stops, respectively.
Reilley Jackson and Drew Goddard, a pair of sophomores, earned their first significant varsity playing time and played strong games on the defensive line to slow down the Roncalli running game. In addition to his impressive offensive performance, Riddle had an interception and two tackles for the Knights.
According to Borer, the conditioning of his team was the difference in the fourth quarter. “We are in great shape as a team,” he said, “and it really showed in the fourth quarter as we pulled away. Chase Goddard and so many of our linemen play both ways. They just found a way to get it done tonight.”
The win marks the second season in a row that Mount Michael has started its year with a victory. That has Borer excited about the rest of the season and the trajectory of the program that he is building. “We are moving in an extremely positive direction as a program,” Borer stated. “I could tell that this was going to be a great year just by the way the seniors carried themselves this summer. They are locked in and ready to go. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, I know that I have a focused team with strong senior leaders.”
Mount Michael will aim for a 2-0 start when the Knights travel to Platteview on Friday night. Platteview is 0-1 after dropping its opening game 20-2 to Bennington.