In the heart of Hartland, on a Friday night, an unforgettable high school football showdown unfolded. It was a scenario straight out of a childhood dream—a game tied with just two minutes left on the clock, a chance to be the hero, and a playoff-like atmosphere that electrified the crowd.
Maddux Kiley, the star of the evening, made his third crucial catch of the night over the middle from the talented quarterback, Jackson Menzel. This spectacular play put Lake Country Lutheran on the Racine St. Catherine’s 11-yard line, with a mere 3.7 seconds remaining. The anticipation was palpable as the all-conference senior kicker prepared to take his shot at glory in front of the home crowd.
With laser focus, Kiley lined up for a 28-yard field goal attempt just as the clock struck zero. The stadium held its breath as the ball sailed through the uprights, clinching a dramatic 23-20 victory. This triumph not only secured a win for the Lightning (with a record of 5-2, 5-0) but also positioned them as the favorites for the Metro Classic Conference title, leaving the Angels (5-2, 4-1) with two weeks in the regular season to play catch-up.
Coach Greg Brazgel marveled at Kiley’s determination, especially considering the kicker’s recent struggles with a nagging knee injury. “He’s been working on that bum (right) knee,” Brazgel remarked. “He goes, ‘I got 40 (yards) tonight.’ We knew we just had to get it to the 27-yard-line, or if we could get him inside the 27, then he could probably boom it. We got him all the way down to the 11 to kick the 27-yarder, which is funny because he missed a 27-yarder against Martin Luther (on Sept. 22). So I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t like this,’ but then he buried it home. It was incredible.”
Reflecting on his game-winning sequence, Kiley shared, “It doesn’t really match anything. Just sitting there, I trust my teammates. They brought me down the field. I trusted them all the way through. I told Coach Brazgel I’d bury it. I’m not sure I felt that, but I wanted it. They brought me there, the holder Menzel just put it there, and I kicked it through. That’s all it wrote. Now we celebrate.”
Kiley’s heroics capped a night of intense gameplay, where every move seemed to carry the weight of the game. Yet, his memorable moment wouldn’t have been possible without the remarkable contributions of his teammate, Carter Leibham.
Leibham, with his five catches and 93-yard performance, had his own share of extraordinary moments. He made a catch from Menzel that seemed to defy gravity, with the ball hanging in the air for what felt like an eternity before finally landing safely in his hands. This play initially tied the game in the third quarter, although a holding penalty nullified the score. Undeterred, Leibham executed a remarkable catch just inside the back right pylon of the endzone, giving his team a vital touchdown.
In a crucial fourth-and-11 situation from the Angels’ 31-yard-line in the final minutes, Leibham’s catch off a hitch route set up Andrew Benz’s go-ahead touchdown run from 3 yards out with 6:48 remaining.
However, it wasn’t just the Lightning who showcased their mettle. St. Catherine’s, facing adversity after the ejection of Lamont Hamilton in the third quarter, found their own hero in Isaac Cantu. Cantu secured a miraculous fourth-and-11 completion from the Angels’ 39-yard-line and then caught a game-tying 42-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mariano Talamantez.
Moments later, Leibham’s pivotal kickoff return positioned the Lightning at their own 46-yard-line, setting the stage for Kiley’s game-winning kick.
Leibham, in praise of his quarterback, Jackson Menzel, said, “Our QB, Menzel, he’s a dog, man. I just knew I needed to make a play for us. He gave me a chance a few times to go make a play, and that’s what I did.”
Yet, amidst the thrilling plays and electrifying moments, one incident cast a significant shadow over the game. With approximately 5:52 remaining in the third quarter and Racine St. Catherine’s leading 14-7, two personal foul calls on the Angels during a punt gave the Lightning possession at the Angels’ 13-yard-line. These penalties, including one attributed to Lamont Hamilton, had a significant impact on the game’s outcome.
Hamilton, a sophomore who played on both sides of the ball and handled punt and kick returns, had already made substantial contributions with two scores earlier in the game. However, he also received a personal foul for an out-of-bounds block on the far sideline during the opening drive of the game, an incident that escalated into a skirmish resulting in four offsetting personal foul calls.
The second penalty, leading to Hamilton’s ejection in the third quarter, was mistakenly assigned to him by the officiating crew. This error led to a heated response from the Angels’ coaching staff. Although Hamilton wasn’t on the field for the punt, his ejection disrupted the game plan and caused confusion among the Lightning’s defense.
Coach Brazgel explained, “That was really the only adjustment at halftime was that we needed to extend wider a little bit. They’re just faster than we thought they were on tape, so all of our angles were wrong. We just extended wider and forced them to cut back, and we knew our scrapers would be there. But once Hamilton went out of the game, it really destroyed my game plan because everything was against him, and our kids were confused because they weren’t lining up where Hamilton was. That’s why we had some of the miscommunications in the secondary because they weren’t ready for what to do without Hamilton in the game. So it actually hurt us for him leaving the game in a weird way.”
In the end, this high-stakes battle under the Friday night lights will be remembered for its thrilling moments, incredible athleticism, and a touch of controversy. It was a game that showcased the resilience and determination of young athletes as they chased their dreams on the football field.