Once in a blue moon, a highly anticipated sporting event lives up to its billing by delivering unforgettable moments, gritty performances, and a dramatic finish.
This year’s football chapter of the “Battle of the Bishops” was one such contest.
In a game that featured four lead changes, three ties, two tradition-rich programs, and one overtime period, it was Bishop Luers emerging victorious over Bishop Dwenger on Friday, September 29, at Luersfield. The Knights’ 29-28 win over the Saints was the latest in a series of hard-fought battles between the two squads, as six of their last eight meetings have been decided by a single score.
“It’s special – something that everybody who’s a part of this game will never forget,” said Bishop Luers Head Coach Kyle Lindsay immediately following the game. “I think everybody who supported the red and black tonight won’t forget this for the rest of their lives.”
The evening began with both teams gathered at midfield for a prayer led by Father Paolo Degasperi, Pastor of St. John the Baptist in Fort Wayne and Co-Chaplain at Bishop Luers.
“Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for giving us this day, for our faith, for our common heritage,” Father Degasperi prayed over the loudspeaker. “We come to this field to give up to you our talents, our strengths. Keep us safe from injuries and help us give you glory with our bodies. And since you’ve prepared eternal rewards to the saints, grant victory to the Knights.” This final line was greeted by much laughter and applause from the home crowd before Father Degasperi led the stadium in the Lord’s Prayer.
All eyes then turned to the gridiron, where Bishop Luers was looking to avenge last year’s 17-12 defeat to its parochial partner and remain atop the Summit Athletic Conference standings. The Knights struck first in the final seconds of the opening quarter when senior quarterback Kohen McKenzie found classmate Isaac Zay in the endzone from 20 yards out. It didn’t take long for the Saints to answer with their own senior-to-senior connection, as Ethan Springer aired it out to Carter Minix for a 67-yard score and a 7-7 tie early in the second quarter.
Bishop Dwenger grabbed the lead heading into halftime with a perfectly executed two-minute drill, capped off by a touchdown pass from Springer to senior Xavier Garrett with 2.8 seconds left on the clock. The Saints appeared to have all the momentum when they began the third quarter with another promising drive, but an interception by Zay gave the ball back to the Knights. One play later, McKenzie hit senior Gio Jiminez on a screen pass, and Jiminez took it 40 yards to the endzone.
“That was huge,” Lindsay said. “You tell the kids, ‘Hey, we’re going to get a stop on defense, get a turnover, and we’re going to go down and score and even this ballgame up, put the pressure back on them.’ For it to just happen ‘boom-boom’ like that, we got that energy back that we had at the beginning of the game.”
The Knights kept that energy coming later in the third quarter, when McKenzie found junior Jaylen White streaking down the sideline for an 83-yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead. Bishop Dwenger countered with a Trent Tippmann touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, and the Saints had a golden opportunity to win the game in the final seconds of regulation. However, a big hit from Bishop Luers senior Finn Saxe – who played for Bishop Dwenger a year ago – caused the Saints’ second red-zone turnover of the game, and the Knights recovered the fumble to force overtime.
Bishop Dwenger opened the overtime with a 5-yard scoring run from Tippmann, who finished with 130 yards on 29 carries. With the Saints leading 28-21, it was up to the Knights to respond, and they turned to senior running back Mickey Daring. Daring, who had battled cramping throughout the night, plunged into the endzone from 2 yards out to pull his team within a point.
That’s when Lindsay – despite not having his team practice two-point conversion plays all week long – decided to eschew the extra-point attempt and go for the win. After a pass interference penalty on the initial conversion attempt moved the ball inside the 2-yard line, Lindsay knew just who he wanted with the ball in his hands.
“When we had a yard and a half, I said, ‘We’ve got to let Mickey Daring win this game,’” Lindsay said. “There’s no way Mickey was going to be denied there.”
“We called a Dive Right Blast,” said Daring, recounting the play call. “I trusted my o-line and knew they were going to get a push. I just had to hold onto the ball and get it in there.”
Daring did just that, causing the home crowd to erupt in jubilation after more than a few minutes of heart-pounding suspense. Lindsay credited his team’s physicality at the line of scrimmage for giving him the confidence to gamble and go for the win. His players answered with the same resiliency that has helped steer Bishop Luers to five straight wins after an 0-2 start.
“We just battled through adversity; we’ve done it all year,” Zay said. “After the first two games, a lot of people doubted us. And you know what? We came back, battled through the SAC, and now we’re 5-0, and we’re looking for that conference [title].”
The Knights will have an opportunity to claim at least a share of the SAC’s Victory Bell with a win in either of its final two regular season games against South Side and Homestead. In the meantime, they’ll celebrate claiming the Bishop’s Trophy for just the second time in their last eight tries. It’s a victory made even sweeter by the familial nature of the rivalry between two schools with a shared mission and Catholic identity.
“Anytime that you put on that Luers uniform, it’s special,” said Lindsay. “And playing in a game like this, against your rival that has that same tradition, that same family bond that we both share as programs, it’s a special night any time we get together.”
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