COLUMBIA TWP. — Three weeks ago, Sebastian Heuniche did not know much about football. While his knowledge base is still small, when he walked off the field Friday following Columbia’s 43-42 victory over the Northwestern Huskies, he learned its importance to the community.
And Heuniche, a junior foreign-exchange student from Denmark, had a big part in bringing Columbia’s faithful to its feet with a 37-yard field goal that put the Raiders (3-0) in front 43-36 with 2:04 left.
“It was so big for me and the team supported me well, so it’s a big thing,” Heuniche said. “It’s cool. It’s very cool. I was a little bit (nervous). It was good to have (the wind).”
Facing a fourth-and-6 from Northwestern’s 20-yard line, Raiders coach Jason Ward knew it was time to call upon the right foot of Heuniche.
“If he wasn’t on this football team, we would’ve had to go for it because we didn’t have a kicker before him that could’ve kicked it from that far,” Ward said. “We’re excited that he was able to come out here. He doesn’t know a lick about football. He has no idea what’s going on out here, but he put the brown ball through the yellow posts, and we’re pretty happy about it.”
While kicking proved to be Columbia’s saving grace, it was Northwestern’s Achilles heel.
With eight seconds remaining, Northwestern quarterback Malachi Nolletti completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Wyatt Edwards to set up the potential tying extra point. However, junior Ryan Morr pushed the kick wide right, and Columbia recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Although the special teams accounted for the final Columbia score, it was the offense and defense that put the Raiders in front with two scores within 18 seconds of each other that turned a seven-point deficit into a six-point halftime lead.
Down 21-14 after Nolletti capped a nine-play, 72-yard drive with a 42-yard touchdown run around the left side, the Raiders got a 47-yard kickoff return from Jesse Lambert, which was the catalyst for a big end to the half.
The Raiders marched 52 yards in seven plays, and quarterback Jay Banyasz finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.
Following a squib kick, the Huskies had a first-and-10 from their 39-yard line. Nolletti dropped back to pass and was under duress from a strong-side blitz from Daniel Loub. After Loub’s hit, the ball came loose, and Tristen Rindfleisch scooped it up and ran 26 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Banyasz finished the game with 114 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, and passed for 170 yards and a score.
“It was a special game by a special young man,” Ward said. “You’re not going to find a better leader, a better young man than he is. Our guys get behind him. They rally behind him.
“A lot of times, when you have outstanding players like that, you could have some jealousy, but not on this football team. They play hard with him and for him and for this coaching staff.”
Banyasz added: “That’s not all on me. That’s about my offensive line, my receivers and especially my backs, Jacob Kleinhenz and Tristen Rindfleisch. They do a great job for me. I’m just thankful to run behind them.”
Contact Matt Florjancic at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.