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Carleton Athletics

Knights' late rally at Lake Forest comes up agonizingly short

September 9, 2017 at 8:11 pm
Christian Zaytoun (left) and Dane Birkeland
Christian Zaytoun (left) and Dane Birkeland had career days, including a 30-yard touchdown connection as time expired.
Photo: Geoffrey Mo '19 / Christopher Mitchell

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – After Christian Zaytoun (Jr./Raleigh, N.C./Woodberry Forest) connected with Dane Birkeland (Sr./Minneapolis, Minn./Minnehaha Academy) for a 30-yard touchdown as time expired, the Carleton College football team could not convert the ensuing two-point attempt and dropped a heartbreaker at Lake Forest College, 48-46.

The Knights (0-2) trailed 48-34 with 3:51 remaining in the contest but would not surrender. Carleton marched 75 yards on its next drive, capped by Zaytoun’s 18-yard scoring strike to Emanual Williams (So./Lovelady, Texas/Lovelady) with 1:17 remaining. The Knights could not recover the onside kick, but the defense held, giving Carleton one final possession. The potential game-tying drive would need to cover 78 yards in only 27.3 seconds.

The Knights faced a second-and-10 from their own 40-yard line with 11.5 seconds left when a Zaytoun pass fell incomplete. However, The Foresters (2-0) were flagged for roughing the passer, advancing the ball 15 yards. The next play resulted in a defensive pass interference call that moved the ball forward to the Lake Forest 30-yard line with only 3.1 ticks still on the clock.

With a clean pocket to work from, Zaytoun stepped up and as the clock hit 00:00, he lofted a pass toward the endzone. Birkeland won the jump ball situation for his first career touchdown. The game-tying two-point pass attempt was caught by Williams, but he was ruled to have been out of bounds, and Lake Forest escaped with the narrow victory.

Zaytoun was 34-of-53 and amassed 458 passing yards—the fourth highest total in recorded school history—to go along with three touchdowns. He also ran the ball for another score. Birkeland’s day included 11 receptions for 195 yards, with both figures representing career bests and the latter total ranking sixth in program history.

Carleton jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to 1-yard touchdown runs by Zaytoun and Tyler O'Keefe (Sr./Woodville, Wis./Spring Valley). Lake Forest responded with 14 unanswered points, but Carleton answered back shortly before halftime.

Williams hauled in a pass and slipped a tackle before racing 34 yards for the touchdown. After a quick three-and-out and a short punt, Carleton took over in Forester territory and O’Keefe capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge with 18 seconds left before intermission.

Lafe Forest preseason All-America running back Joey Valdivia took over to start the second half, rumbling for touchdown runs of 48, 18, and 43 yards as he totaled 224 rushing yards on the day.

Early in the fourth quarter, Logan Emholtz (Jr./River Falls, Wis./River Falls) had a 16-yard run for Carleton, part of his career-high 67 rushing yards, but a pair of field goals and a touchdown pass moved Lake Forest in front 48-34 and set the stage for the Knights’ late rally.

Carleton total 546 yards of total offense, its highest output since the 2008 season opener versus Cornell College. The 46 points were the most for the Knights since completing a late comeback to topple Augsburg, 49-45, in the 2014 season finale.

Merrick Ducharme (Sr./Blooming Prairie, Minn./Hayfield) and Jay Na (So./San Francisco, Calif./Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep) paced the Carleton defense with eight tackles apiece.

Carleton returns home to host University of St. Thomas next Saturday, Sept. 16 at 1:10 p.m. Knights Online will provide live video and stats, and the game can also be heard on KQCL 95.9 FM in the Northfield/Faribault area.