BANGOR — Dillon Yang was down on the football field at Bangor High School, clearly in pain while holding his head.
The good news was that the Onalaska Luther senior quarterback and linebacker didn’t have a concussion. The bad news was that he couldn’t see.
Yang, who in this instance was manning his spot on the edge of the Knights’ defense, had been poked in the eye as he flowed to the ball, and it began to swell while the muscles in his face and neck tightened.
He was forced to leave the game, and the Onalaska Luther trainer rinsed his eye with saline solution as sophomore Eli Krause took over at quarterback for the Knights’ next possession.
That drive ultimately stalled at the Bangor 20-yard line, and the Cardinals marched 81 yards in 13 plays to take a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
But Yang returned at quarterback for the ensuing possession, and he could certainly see just fine then.
Yang used his arm and his legs to orchestrate a scoring drive that gave Onalaska Luther a significant 20-13 victory on Friday night and ended Bangor’s run of 45 consecutive Scenic Bluffs Conference wins.
The victory moves the Knights to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference, while the Cardinals — who have lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2013 — drop to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
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“This feels amazing,” Yang said as Onalaska Luther players and fans mingled in celebration after handing Bangor its first home loss since Nov. 7, 2014.
“It shows that we can compete with anybody and everybody here,” Knights senior Eli Bolstad said. “We might have had some hiccups in the past, but this game proves that we should be in this conference.”
Yang led the charge with 118 rushing yards on 18 carries while completing eight of his 13 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown against one interception. He was also responsible for 61 of Onalaska Luther’s 62 yards on the game-winning drive.
After a 3-yard touchdown run by Bangor senior running back Mathieu Oesterle — who carried most of the Cardinals’ load with junior counterpart Tanner Jones out with a knee injury — gave his team a 13-12 lead with 2 minutes, 40 seconds to play, Bolstad returned the ensuing kickoff out to the Onalaska Luther 38.
Yang started the drive with a 7-yard pass to junior wideout Nathan Riley on an out route. He followed with a 20-yard designed quarterback run, in which he started right and cut back left around the outside, to move into Bangor territory.
Yang and Riley, who had five catches for 42 yards, connected twice more as the Knights advanced to the red zone.
“He’s got some really good footwork, really good routes,” Yang said of Riley. “He’s probably one of the top receivers I look to other than (sophomore tight end) Logan Bahr.”
Yang took over from there, and runs of 4, 6 and 6 brought Onalaska Luther to the 1-yard line. Junior running back Tanner Bass then punched it in, and Yang ran in the two-point conversion after the Cardinals were called for pass interference on the first attempt.
That gave the Knights a 20-13 advantage with 1:10 to play.
“I just wanted to get the ball back and do what we do in practice,” Yang said of the go-ahead drive. “We practice that two-minute drive all the time, and it worked to perfection.”
“(Yang is) an amazing leader for us,” Onalaska Luther coach Matt Schiebel said. “He’s a big, strong kid. He doesn’t shy away from contact. Even in big spots in games, he steps up and does a great job.”
Bangor still had enough time to try to put together a couple of big plays, but Riley intercepted Ashton Michek on the first play of the ensuing drive after junior tight end Dustin McDonald tripped late in his route.
That was the Cardinals’ only turnover, but they struggled to finish drives in the first half and to move the ball consistently in the second half.
Oesterle finished with 174 yards and two touchdowns, but it took him 39 carries to do so. The rest of Bangor’s offense totaled 57 yards as the Knights’ defensive line created piles at the line of scrimmage.
“They were fighting their hardest,” Bass said. “They were bear crawling, getting through there, everything was working for them. That was perfect.”
“I give Luther a lot of credit,” Cardinals coach Todd Grant said. “I mean, they came out and had a good game plan. They played hard. They just made a few more plays than we did at the end.”
Bangor’s first two drives stalled inside the Onalaska Luther 25, but Oesterle got the team on the board with a patient 11-yard TD run with 51 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Cardinals appeared poised to take a 7-0 lead into half after a screen from Yang to Bass was stopped for a 3-yard loss, but the quarterback connected with Bolstad on the next play.
Bolstad made a leaping catch near the left sideline, stayed in bounds while turning up field and raced for a 56-yard touchdown to make it 7-6 at the break.
Yang threw his interception on the first possession of the third quarter, but Bangor couldn’t capitalize on the short field. Yang and Bass then led a 14-play, 74-yard touchdown drive, with the latter scoring from 2 yards out to give the Knights a 12-7 lead with 1:32 left in the third.
Bass finished with 14 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
Onalaska Luther’s lead held until Bangor’s late scoring drive, but Yang had the answer.
“He became a dog,” Riley said of Yang. “Getting injured and coming back and making that type of drive was just crazy.”
The Knights will look to build on the win when they host Necedah next week, while the Cardinals will look to bounce back against Brookwood.
Eric Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ByEricLee