The only better feeling than winning on opening night is when that win was the team’s first in nearly three years. The Roncalli Jets are coming off of a 0-10 season, with an 0-6 effort the year prior, but the team will finish this season with at least one win under their belt! It was an incredible atmosphere at Ron Rubick Municipal Field in Manitowoc as Roncalli took town Manitowoc Lutheran 26-20.
Things started slow for both teams as there was no score in the first quarter. The Lutheran Lancers were immediately made aware of the explosiveness of Brayden Reimer as his first carry of the season went for 17 yards. Offensively for Lutheran, Caleb Uhlorn and Kamden Baye proved to be a great one-two combo. Baye was able to consistently go to that next level as only three of his nine carries in the first half were for less than five yards.
The Scoring Begins
It wasn’t surprising to see Brayden Bennett mix it up a bit in the passing game for Lutheran, but the arm of Landon Chalupny surprised many. An early interception didn’t set Roncalli’s passing attack back, however, it allowed for Lutheran to score first. Just a few minutes into the second quarter, Kamden Baye punched it in from six yards away. One of the most intriguing parts about this game was Lutheran going for extra points but Roncalli opting for the two-point conversion. Lutheran left a point on the table as a bad snap meant no extra point attempt, leaving them ahead 6-0.
Roncalli’s head coach, Paul Kinsella, still had faith in Landon Chalupny. There was nothing wrong with Brayden Reimer, in fact, everything seemed to be going his way. He finished the first half just two yards shy of 100 on thirteen carries. Roncalli was able to answer with just over two minutes left in the second quarter when Chalupny hit Jenson Wetenkamp for a three-yard touchdown pass. Roncalli’s two-point conversion was in the hands of Brayden Reimer, and he converted to put the Jets on top 8-6.
The problem? Roncalli’s defense slipped up in the final moments of the first half. Lutheran knew they had time to work, and they didn’t let it go to waste. Brayden Bennett’s sixth completion of the half was a 30-yard bullet to Kaden Hagenow which put the Lancers back on top. In order to go ahead six, Lutheran tried for two this time but came up short. Unlike their meeting last season, Roncalli now trailed Lutheran 12-8 going into the half.
Second Half Here We Come
Roncalli got the ball to begin the second half, however things slowed down until the quarter began to wind down. Landon Chalupny’s first pass attempt of the third quarter was a 51-yard bomb to Brenden Dvorachek which took Ron Rubick Municipal Field by storm. There weren’t many who expected Chalpuny to have over 100 passing yards in game one of the year. Roncalli’s two-point conversion was denied, leaving them ahead 14-12.
Just three minutes later, the complexion of this game changed completely. Roncalli’s defense stood their ground which allowed the offense to take over. Brayden Reimer exploded for a 62-yard rushing touchdown, something the Lancers knew he was capable of doing but something they didn’t want to experience first-hand. Reimer’s massive touchdown allowed for Roncalli to take a multi score lead, but again they failed on the two-point conversion, leaving the score a manageable 20-12.
Kamden Baye was slowed down significantly as only four of his eleven carries in the second half were for five or more yards. The good news for Lutheran is Bennett and Hagenow still had a connection, this time it was a 4 yard pass and catch to put the Lancers within two points. With 7:42 left on the clock, the game wasn’t on the line, but Lutheran once again had Bennett pass to Hagenow, resulting in a 20-20 game.
The clock continued to tick, minutes continued to come off, but Lutheran using their final timeout with about four minutes left to go was a huge key. Roncalli had the ball with just over two and a half minutes on the clock and two timeouts in their back pocket as they begin what would be the final drive of the game.
With four seconds remaining, Roncalli had the ball on Lutheran’s eight-yard line. Brayden Reimer was firing on all cylinders, having 24 carries for 219 yards at this point. That said, Landon Chalupny proved he had an arm that could do some damage. What does Paul Kinsella do? He hands it off to Brayden Reimer, seemingly throwing the Lancers defense off guard. Reimer bumps off a few blocks to his left as he dives into the endzone. Game over. With four seconds remaining, no timeouts, ball on the eight-yard line, Roncalli decided to run the ball and it gave them their first win since August 23rd, 2019.
Brayden Reimer finished the game with 227 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the final touchdown is all that will be remembered. In a game where Reimer had a 62-yard dash, where Chalupny connected with Dvorachek for just over 50 yards, the re-occurring thought in the Jets mind will be Reimer crossing the goal-line as time expired. It was truly a special moment in Manitowoc between the cross-town rivals.
Roncalli gets to play at home next week as well. It’ll be a battle of two 1-0 teams as the Jets host Oconto who is fresh off a 7-6 victory over one of their hometown rivals, Oconto Falls. Last season, Oconto handled Roncalli easily. That game ended at halftime due to the weather, but Oconto had a commanding 27-0 lead regardless.
There’s no guarantee that Roncalli will win another game this season, but to do it in walk-off fashion (if I’m allowed to use a baseball term in football) makes the game that much more memorable. The Jets knew they could defeat the Lancers, and they did just that. Roncalli heads into week 2 with a 1-0 record for the first time since 2019.
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