Minutes after the conclusion of Friday’s game, coach Jim Jackman told the Litchfield football players who surrounded him that he liked their smiles.
Those grins were hard-earned.
The Dragons overcame some errors and found a way to beat Glencoe-Silver Lake 27-20 at LHS football field. The last-minute win against a long-time rival raised Litchfield’s record 2-1 on the season.
“GSL has traditionally been a very good program, and their kids came to play,” Jackman said. “You know, like us, they battled some ups and downs in the beginning of the game and they made some plays and they got ahead of us … but we made some plays, too.”
In a back-and-forth game that Litchfield led 20-12 at halftime, it looked like a crucial change in momentum might come midway through the third quarter. A muffed punt gave Glencoe-Silver Lake the ball on the Litchfield 24-yard line, and the Panthers’ Braxton Streich eventually pounded in a 12-yard touchdown run and the two-point conversion to tie the game at 20-all at 5:48 of the third.
Streich, a junior running back, was a thorn in the Dragons’ side all night, scoring all three of Glencoe-Silver Lake’s touchdowns. He finished with 17 carries for 94 yards.
With the game knotted, the game turned into a battle of field position, which Litchfield would eventually win, keyed by two Garrison Jackman punts that forced GSL to start drives from inside its own 20.
“To change the field is a huge thing, knowing he’s going to punch it out thee around 40 yards,” Jackman said of his son’s punting. “He’s done a good job, just like many of the kids that we have.”
With 6:25 to go in the game, Litchfield forced a GSL punt and took possession at its own 43-yard line. And methodically marched down the field.
Just as GSL had its workhorse runner, so does Litchfield, and it was never more evident than the Dragons’ winning drive, which ended with junior running back Lukas Kuehl’s 1-yard run. Kuehl, who scored all four of Litchfield’s touchdowns, finished with 28 carries for 262 yards, including several carries on the winning drive.
“If I had 20 timeouts, I’d probably have to take one after every one of his runs, because he was so gassed,” Jackman said. “But fourth quarter, you need to stay in the game, and he did that for us.”
Jackman also credited an inexperienced offensive line, including juniors Alex Carew and Creighton Huhner, who had not played on the line prior to this season, with opening holes that made it possible for Kuehl to pile up the yards.
“We did a better job tonight. I think they’re going to grow and develop,” Jackman said. “You know, they’re all in different positions, so it’s gonna take some time. I think as a coaching staff, that’s one of the things we’ve talked about is we’ve got to be a little patient here. It’s going to take some time for these kids to learn to play together and how to block as lineman.”
Patience was rewarded Friday, and it leaves the Dragons in a good frame of mind as they head into a nonconference game at 7 p.m. Friday against St. Cloud Cathedral at Collegeville.
“Like I said (in the postgame huddle), anytime you can walk away with a win, you’re feeling good, whether it’s one point or 30 points,” Jackman said. “Kids are smiling, beautiful night for football. I mean, you couldn’t ask for anything else.”