Kentucky Wesleyan College came oh, so, close to making Craig Yeast the first coach in school history to win his first game with the program.
Chris Mangold missed a 45-yard field goal with 41 seconds left on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, and the Panthers fell 17-14 to highly-regarded Concordia.
It was the first game as head coach for Yeast, a former University of Kentucky star wide receiver. He said this day didn't have any different feel for him as another college football Saturdays he'd experienced.
"Football is football, it doesn't matter where I'm at, as long as I'm coaching football I'm happy," Yeast said. "What I wanted today was to start this season off, have our young men play hard and win the game. We made a lot of mistakes, but we played hard, I'm encouraged by the effort we gave all the way to the end of the game."
KWC struggled on offense until late in the fourth quarter. Freshman quarterback Wiley Cain took over for starter Mike McGee and got the Panthers moving on a drive that started with 5:54 left.
Cain and De'Ondre Boggs connected on an improbable touchdown from 41 yards out with 2:52 to go. Cain was under heavy pressure on third-and-19 when he let fly with a ball that appeared to be intercepted in the end zone by Concordia, but Boggs ended up with it for the score before going out of the back of the end zone.
"I was telling the quarterback to throw it up and give me a shot," Boggs said "I saw the ball in the air, my mentality is if the ball is in the air, it's mine. I went for the ball, snatched it out of the defender's hands. It was intercepted, I just had to snatch the ball, I don't know, I was kind of lucky. We both had our hands on the ball, and I just snatched it from him."
Trailing 10-0, junior linebacker Jalen Wilson scored the first touchdown of the game for KWC with a 70-yard interception return. Wilson was in the flat when Concordia quarterback Roger Engle threw a pass Wilson stepped in front of and sprinted downfield with for a touchdown to cut the visitors' lead to 10-7.
"Number 2 ran an out, I looked back, saw the quarterback was going to pass it to him and I cut underneath it," Wilson said. "I caught it and ran it back, try to get some points on the board and encourage everybody."
Concordia came right back with a six-play drive, capped off by Omar Sinclair's 11-yard touchdown run to push the lead back to 17-7.
Wilson made another interception in the fourth quarter, but a KWC fumble gave the ball back to Concordia.
KWC got the ball a final time with 2:17 left, and Cain drove it to the Concordia 28, hitting a 14-yard pass to former Apollo standout Peyton Peters along the way, setting up the late field goal try.
Cain made 10-of-16 passes for 96 yards but was sacked five times.
KWC's defense held up well considering Concordia ran 21 more offensive plays than KWC, picking up 369 yards to 146 for KWC.
"I've been saying for a long time we've got a great defense," Yeast said. "I'm encouraged by what I saw from our guys."
CONCORDIA 3-7-7-0 -- 17
KENTUCKY WESLEYAN 0-0-7-7 -- 14
C-Mast 22 FG
C-Thompson 2 run (Mast kick)
K-Wilson 70 INT return (Mangold kick)
K-Boggs 41 pass from Cain (Mangold kick)