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Football: Kankakee Valley wins first NCC title

Munster's Seth Gutweis swarmed  by Kankakee Valley's defenders for sack  during their game held Munster High School Friday

Munster's Seth Gutwein is swarmed by Kankakee Valley's defenders for a sack during their game held at Munster High School on Friday October 12, 2012. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 14, 2012 3:12PM



MUNSTER — As they joyously screamed and shouted “NCC, NCC, NCC, NCC” over and over again in the north end zone, Kankakee Valley’s players were thrilled just to have a share of the Northwest Crossroads Conference title.

The Kougars (8-1, 5-1) finished the regular season tied with Andrean and Hobart for the league title after coming back three times from seven-point deficits to finally overcome Munster (2-7, 1-5) with a 31-21 victory on Friday night.

“This means absolutely everything after what we’ve gone through the last three years,” KV’s Mark Lukacek smiled. “It really means a lot to us. Hopefully, we can build a new winning tradition here at KV.”

Lukacek made major contributions in the Kougars’ win — returning an early second-half kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 14 and answer an 80-yard TD run by Munster’s Ernest Carter. Lukacek then booted a key 39-yard field goal with 5:02 left to give the Kougars some breathing room and a 31-21 lead.

Lukacek had missed a 40-yard field goal with 3:47 left in the third period and the game tied at 21 following a recovery of a Munster fumble.

“They (Mustangs) kept getting in my head on the first one,” Lukacek said. “After every PAT leading up to it, they were roughing (hitting) me after the kick. But everyone still believed in me. They knew I could make it. I knew I could make it. I didn’t let them get in my head on that kick. I figured, if they hit me, they hit me. I might as well make the kick anyway.”

Kankakee Valley coach Brad Stewart couldn’t praise Munster’s performance enough.

“That was a good effort by Munster,” he said. “They play hard. I don’t care what their record is. They have a good football team.”

The Mustangs gave KV all it could handle throughout the game with a rushing defense that limited Kougars’ star running back Tyler Birky to only 53 yards on 17 carries, including a 5-yard TD run that tied the game for the final time at 21 with 6:22 left in the third quarter.

Birky suffered a sprained ankle late in the game, but Stewart said he expects him to be able to play when the postseason opens Friday night.

Munster’s Carter turned in an impressive performance, rushing for 189 yards and a pair of TDs on runs of 80 and 71 yards.

Stewart, the architect of championship defenses while at Lowell, loved watching the reaction of his players once they knew they had clinched at least a share of the title.

“To me, it doesn’t really matter that much, but to the kids, it’s a first,” he said. “To the kids, it’s the greatest thing. It’s great to see all their effort, all their hard work, pay off like this.”

Kougars’ linebacker Johnny Williams had a strong game defensively with eight solo tackles, two tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks. Johnny Morrison had six solo tackles and one quarterback sack, while Joel Bolen, Tim Schoonveld and Tom Holme all recovered fumbles.



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