Going into Friday's homecoming match-up, both the Lindbergh Flyers and the Northwest Lions could say they were desperate for a win.
And for 43 minutes, Friday night at Lindbergh's Flyers Field, the Lions were doing a fantastic job of ruining all the fun for the Flyers, keeping what was supposed to be a home team blowout tied at 6 apiece.
But in the final five minutes, Northwest finally caved. With two critical turnovers and a botched fake punt, Lindbergh put up three easy touchdowns, propelling the Flyers to pull out a 26-6 Homecoming victory over the Lions.
"I'm sure it's exciting for the kids (to win their Homecoming game), but we just needed a win," Lindbergh head coach Tom Beauchamp said. "That's the most important thing. It was ugly. It was definitely ugly, but it was still a good win for us."
Lindbergh (2-3), has a chance to completely turn its season around next week, when it will travels to Wildwood to take on undefeated and No. 6-ranked Lafayette, next Friday night at 7 p.m. Despite what might have been its best performance of the young season, Northwest remains 0-5.
"The score, in my opinion, wasn't real reflective of how close this game was," Northwest head coach Nick Hoth said. "This was (a) tie game until the final minutes. Either team could've won. We just had some mistakes there at the end, and credit to Lindbergh, they took advantage of it, and were able to pull away from us."
Lindbergh junior Garrett Krueger had a huge night for the Flyers, rushing for 162 yards on 23 carries, which included two touchdowns, a 65-yard fumble return (on Northwest's first possession of the game) and a 1-yard punch in that gave his team the lead for good in the fourth quarter.
"Garrett's really a special player," Beauchamp said. "In my 32 years of coaching, I've only had two freshmen ever start for me, and Garrett was one of them. He's just a special kid and he always gives everything he has."
That was especially true on what proved to be the game-winning touchdown, as Krueger momentairly left the game with a shoulder stinger two plays earlier, but then came back in for a quick plunge over the goal line to give the Flyers the lead. Kicker Blake Brockhaus' extra-point made it 13-6 Lindbergh with 4:54 left in the game, which might have been enough on its own to put Northwest away. But Lindbergh senior safety Dalton Scharbert did those honors about a minute later, when he intercepted a tipped pass from Northwest's James Goetzmann and returned it 20 yards for a pick six making it 20-6 Flyers.
"Our offense is not really set up for throwing the ball around and coming back on people," Hoth said. "We're a smash-mouth, power team. We want to run the ball and control the clock. But frankly, I don't care if we lose by one point or a hundred points. I felt like I owed it to these kids to at least try to go for a big one."
Hoth gambled on Northwest's next possession, when he called for a fake punt from deep in his own territory. Lindbergh's defense swarmed Northwest's Adnan Al-Amami and tackled him inside his own 10-yard line.
Two plays later, junior Carl Lovely busted into the end zone from 3 yards out for the exclaimation point on the night. Al-Amami, who rushed for 75 yards on just 15 carries, scored Northwest's lone touchdown of the night, a 2-yard run in the second quarter.
Northwest will be back at home next weekend, hosting its own Homecoming festivities, including the Homecoming parade and dance next Saturday, and the Homecoming football game on Friday, against Poplar Bluff. Kickoff on Friday is set for 7 p.m.