It was a red-letter weekend for new Nicolet football coach Alex Moroder.
In his first game at the helm, his team broke a four-year long losing streak with a gritty, 13-12, season opening win over Waukesha South on Aug. 19. It was a game that tested the mettle of the young Knights, as it featured lightning delays and goal line stands, hopefully establishing a root base for success in the future.
Then on the very next day, Aug. 20, he and his family moved into a home in the Nicolet School District, establishing even deeper ties to the community.
"Sorry about the noise," he chuckled the morning of Aug. 20, "but I'm standing here while a lot of boxes are being moved (into the new house)."
But there was a lot more noise on the soggy evening the night before. When after the Knights' defense, which Moroder had praised up and down, made one last stop of the Blackshirts on the South 30 with about 2:30 to go, the Nicolet offense earned one vital first down and then was able to run out the clock. Senior quarterback Jack Hansen then got to do that rarest of things in Nicolet football -- kneel down in a victory formation.
And with that, the sad losing streak, one that had endured 0-9 seasons in 2013 and 2015 and a year of no varsity football in 2014, came to an end.
The last Nicolet win had been a 20-14 decision over Milwaukee Lutheran on Sept. 12, 2012.
"This is absolutely huge," said Moroder. "We talked a lot about mental strength and overcoming adversity. They (the Blackshirts) kept coming back, and then we had that 30 minute delay (due to lightning at the start of the third quarter) and then the teams came out again and there was lightning again. But we had the maturity to keep pushing forward for the victory."
The Knights will look to build on this effort when they host area rival Shorewood/Messmer at 7 p.m. Fruday, Aug. 26.
Moroder knows that this is only one victory, but knows it could lead to bigger and better things.
"We were able to make a lot of plays tonight," he said. "This is just very positive. It shows what we need to do in order to get where we want to go."
The Knights were pointed in the right direction the whole game against South.
They took advantage of a short field in the first quarter to take the lead on a one-yard run by running back Dakari Williams.
They preserved that lead going into the halftime break, when with eight seconds left in the second quarter, sophomore defensive back Jayson Wilder broke up a fourth-down South pass from the Knights' 1-yard line.
"That was a big, big stop," said Moroder.
The storms, which delayed or canceled several games in the greater Milwaukee area that night, then rumbled through, forcing close to an hour delay. When the game resumed, South scored to cut the deficit to 7-6, with the extra point being no good. A short time after that, the Blackshirts took advantage of another short field to punch another score across and take a 12-7 lead.
But in a key development, the Knights' defense was able to stop the two-point conversion try.
Then, Williams made the play of the game. He was part of that powerhouse state-track placewinning 4x200-meter relay team last spring, and he showed off his speed when he grabbed a punt with about six minutes to go at his own 30-yard line and roared past several defenders all the way for a 70-yard TD.
Then it was up to the defense, often an Achilles heel for the Knights, to get the job done. It was led by junior defensive end Jared Tillman, who got a critical strip sack earlier in the game. The unit protected the lead and allowed Hansen and the offense to settle into that coveted victory formation.
"We had been waiting to do that for a long time," said Moroder. "There was a lot of excitement on the field afterward and in the community too. Just a big, big win. I think this could be an integral win, something that will help us create a new culture for Nicolet football."
As noted by Moroder, there was no shortage of well-wishers following the victory.
Former Knights' coach Brian Sommers, who is now heading up University School, was very pleased.
"I did send coach Moroder a text congratulating him last night," Sommers said. "He and I worked closely with our youth co-op 'Knightcats' program over the past seven months and I was not surprised that they had a strong showing in week one versus South. His approach and philosophy are spot on."
Meanwhile, Moroder's boss Nicolet Athletic Director Kirk Krychowiak was greatly encouraged by the win.
"Obviously a great day for Nicolet football," he said. "Very proud of the program."