JANESVILLE, Wis - A new era, indeed.
Ken DuBose began his tenure at Beloit Memorial in rather glorious fashion Friday night at Monterey Stadium when his Purple Knights defeated Janesville Craig 16-13.
The win marked Beloit's first over Craig since 2009, and the first season-opening win in well over 20 years.
The Knights capitalized on a significant mistake by the Craig special teams to come back from a 13-9 deficit in the fourth quarter.
Backed up in their own territory and clinging to that four-point lead, the Cougars were forced to punt with 7:20 remaining. The snap sailed well over the head of punter Chip Dose, who was able to smother the ball at his own six-yard line.
Beloit Memorial quarterback Shelvin Garrett II took advantage of the error, scoring from six yards out on the first play to vault Beloit Memorial back in front.
On the ensuing possession, the Knights stuffed Craig quarterback Eric Hughes for a loss on fourth-and-one, allowing Beloit to take over on the Craig 34 with 5:41 to play.
After the Cougars defense once again held, Craig took over at their own 20 with 3:56 left. A costly penalty set up a 3rd-and-18 from their own 37 yard line.
That's when quarterback Eric Hughes hit Marshaun Harriel down the east sideline for an apparent 63-yard touchdown.
Amid the bedlam along the Craig sideline resided a damaging piece of laundry: A flag that indicated Harriel had stepped out of bounds, then came back in to make the catch. Illegal touching was the call, and the Cougars were buried deep in their own territory.
When Matt Gibson secured his second interception of the game on fourth-and-long and the Knights followed with a first down, the Beloit had its first win over Craig since 2009.
"We were just in a cover-four coverage and I had to make sure nobody got behind me," Gibson said. "Just knowing the situation in the game, I knew I had to come down with it. It's an amazing feeling."
Beloit Memorial coach Ken DuBose, in his first game after taking over the program from Rodney Wedig, said he isn't ready to declare the program a future dynasty quite yet.
"Culture is measured by consistency," DuBose said. "I think we will come to compete and fight against anyone we play. If guys aren't ready to do that, then they won't be in the program. It's a discipline thing. When you are in an urban community with undisciplined, athletic kids, if you can teach those kids discipline, you can have a program like East St. Louis. That's why I came here. It takes time, but we could be dangerous."
After running into a brick wall time after time against a tough Beloit Memorial defense in the first half, the Cougars continued to exhibit faith in their running game.
Their patience was rewarded when Hughes got loose for a pair of second-half touchdowns to lead Craig to a 13-9 advantage after the team trailed 9-0 at halftime.
The Knights struck first with 10:30 remaining in the first half when sophomore Griffin Oberneder connected on a 33-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
After the teams exchanged several empty possessions, the Purple Knights took over at the Craig 38 with 2:12 to play. Their scoring drive took just two plays, both runs by Garrett, to take a 9-0 lead. After a bruising nine-yard carry, Garrett sprinted up the middle on a quarterback to travel the remaining 29 yards and make it a 9-0 game.
The Cougars got on the board with 3:13 to play in the third quarter when quarterback Eric Hughes finally broke free, scoring from 52 yards out on a designed keeper.
Hughes also put the Cougars ahead with 11:06 to play, capping an eight-play, 56-yard drive that was accomplished without the benefit of a forward pass.
Those two scores all led up to the wild finish that left the Cougars winless and reeling, while the Purple Knights celebrated a win in what could be the final time the two teams meet, barring a playoff matchup.
The Knights will come home to take on Sun Prairie Friday night.