WEST LAFAYETTE — Concordia Lutheran could sense how close it was to winning.
West Lafayette fans could feel it in the rumbling of the crowd. Everyone in at Gordon Straley Field knew the Cadets were on the verge of heading to their first semistate since 2007.
Concordia’s dream season, its best in years, was still alive.
A few plays later it was gone.
Holding a 21-19 lead, Concordia had recovered West Lafayette’s onside kick attempt, holding the ball with 4:15 left on its own 47.
Then, facing third-and-9 with less than four minutes to play, Concordia went for the first down with a pass.
Throwing to the right sideline near the first down marker, David Morrison and his receiver ran into route confusion.
West Lafayette capitalized with an interception and took the ball 55 yards on its ensuing possession, punching it in with 33.8 seconds left. Concordia lost 25-21, ending its season at 9-4.
“You want to put the ball in David’s hands, he makes plays, he’s your playmaker,” Concordia coach Tim Mannigel said. “Secondly, had a little mix-up on the route. It wasn’t quite what we had called, and David threw it to where he thought our kid would be and it was a West Lafayette kid.”
With 33.8 seconds left, Concordia’s last drive mimicked what happened early in the game. With no timeouts remaining, the Cadets were sacked twice on the last four plays, including the game-ender. The Red Devils line put pressure on Concordia all game, forcing Morrison to scramble and make quick decisions.
“You could argue they put as much pressure on us as any team we played all year, even Dwenger or Snider,” Mannigel said. “They’re pretty good and they handled us probably better than any team handled us all year.”
Concordia’s start wasn’t much better than the ending. On the first two drives, West Lafayette scored by pounding the ball with running back Maurice Woodard, who ended the game with three touchdowns and 185 yards, to take a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Concordia defense struggled to handle Woodard’s running and the pace of the Red Devils offense. West Lafayette consistently got to the line quickly to run plays just a few seconds after the ball had been spotted. It took Concordia the first quarter to catch up.
“We adjusted to the pace,” Mannigel said. “They came out here with a good quarterback, good running back and good offensive line. They probably (were) getting surges on us better than any team we played all year. I was impressed by that and surprised by that.”
After the slow start, Concordia found its stride by looking toward receiver Jorden Kindig. He finished the game with two receiving touchdowns and a 63-yard catch to bring the Cadets inside the West Lafayette 5-yard line to take the lead in the third quarter.
“Kindig was huge tonight,” Morrison said. “He’s got a great mind for the game. He really was able to read the defense and get in the right spot. Normally our go-to receiver is Jake Minich, but they were doubling him and other guys had to step up, and he came through for us tonight.”
With Kindig, Concordia was able to build a 21-13 lead in the fourth quarter after Morrison scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown run. Then the dream faded away.
Still, as disappointing as the ending was, Mannigel was quick to put this season up with any other he has had while coaching the Cadets since 2001.
“This has been one of the most fun seasons in coaching for our coaches,” he said. “Had a great group of 16 seniors, strong leaders with strong integrity that came to work everyday at practice. They were very coachable and I think that shows in the success we had and that they always keep fighting.
“We came out short tonight, but it was a pleasure and really fun.”