Football outlasts Knights to win Cereal Bowl

St. Olaf met its rival Carleton College on the gridiron Saturday, Oct. 22, continuing a tradition that dates back 97 years and continues strong to this day. The competitive spirit between the two schools is extraordinary since the two colleges are separated only by a mere mile. Their proximity fuels the intensity of the contest when the two teams square off every year to determine the new champion of Northfield.

Due to the heightened emotions, the week leading up to the game – commonly referred to as “worm week” by the football team – has a special feeling for the players.

“There’s always an extra level of intensity throughout the week of practice leading into the game,” linebacker Colten Yahn ’17 said.

Head coach Craig Stern even refuses to call Carleton by name, instead referring to it as “that other school in town.”

The game’s coveted grand prize, a wooden goat called the Goatrophy, was created in 1931; the scores of every contest dating back to that year are recorded on the award’s back. The victorious team proudly displays it in its trophy case all year long, and, in the event of a victory, the senior Oles are each provided with miniature replicas of the iconic trophy. In 2003, Northfield’s Malt-O-Meal factory added more passion to the rivalry by introducing a new memento to the contest, leading to the annual game’s appropriate nickname of the “Cereal Bowl.”

However, the greatest tradition of this anticipated game occurs once the clock hits zero and a winner is decided. Immediately following a victory, the winning team walks together in uniform towards a prominent eagle statue in the center of downtown Northfield, proudly singing its school’s fight song while the seniors take turns rotating the structure so that it faces their college. The eagle remains facing in the direction of the victors until they are dethroned from their place atop Northfield’s football hierarchy.

With so much on the line each year, the Cereal Bowl never fails to provide a dramatic, emotional struggle between two of the conference’s most bitter foes. This year’s contest was no exception.

The Oles defeated their crosstown rivals 32-25, a one-score difference in a rollercoaster football game. This year’s Cereal Bowl featured five lead changes and remained suspenseful from start to finish, resulting in pure elation for St. Olaf and crushing disappointment for Carleton once the score became final.

The Knights started off convincingly, driving down the field and taking a 7-0 lead on their first possession, but the Oles responded with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of their own, capped off by a 9-yard touchdown run by running back Bryan Aviles ’17. St. Olaf would take a one-point advantage into halftime after a 16-yard touchdown reception by Connor Henderson ’18, his fourth of the season, sandwiched by a pair of field goals from Kyle McMahan ’20 from 35 and 27 yards.

The Oles struck quickly on their opening drive of the second half, taking a comfortable 25-17 lead after quarterback Jack Goldstein ’18 hurled a 55-yard touchdown pass, his 11th of the season, fourth most in the conference. Goldstein played well throughout the game, leading the Ole attack with 328 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Carleton responded with a touchdown pass to Zach Creighton on the ensuing possession, leaving the score knotted at 25. The deciding score came with 4:23 left in the third quarter, a 6-yard touchdown run by Troy Peterson ’18 on a 4th-and-1 from the Carleton 6-yard line.

The Ole defense held strong during the final quarter, forcing two turnovers as well as a stop on their opponents’ 4th down attempt, keeping Carleton off the scoreboard. Luke Dahl ’19 came up with a key late interception, and the defense stuffed Carleton’s last-ditch rush attempt on a 4th-and-1 deep into St. Olaf territory, keeping the Oles in line for the win. On Carleton’s final possession, linebacker Danny Opitz ’17 sacked Carleton quarterback Christian Zaytoun with three seconds left in the game, forcing a fumble that was recovered by fellow linebacker Yahn, securing a third consecutive St. Olaf victory over its crosstown rival.

It’s been a bumpy season for St. Olaf football – following a pair of excellent performances early in the season, the team stumbled in conference play. However, regardless of overall record, winning the Cereal Bowl provides the 2016 Oles with a memorable highlight they can be proud of. For yet another season, they remain the champions of Northfield football over their most hated opponents. No, they won’t be winning the conference, but this victory feels like their own Super Bowl.