KEWANEE, Ill. — Matt Cain can vividly remember the 55-mile van ride home from last year's final round of the Mississippi Athletic Conference boys golf tournament.
"It was very quiet, no one really spoke," he said. "It was a lot of disappointment."
After finishing one stroke behind Burlington last season at Kewanee Dunes Golf Club, Davenport Assumption redeemed itself Saturday to snap a two-decade long drought.
The Knights rallied from a six-stroke deficit with a 308 in the closing round to clip Muscatine and Bettendorf for their first MAC crown in 24 years and second in program history.
Assumption had a 623 total, followed by Muscatine (625) and Bettendorf (628). The 308 was the Knights' second best score of the fall.
"It was kind of heartbreaking last year," senior Max Gogel said. "This year, it is joy, happiness and (posing for) pictures."
Gogel became Assumption's first MAC medalist since Scott Gillam in 1992. The team's top player recovered from a bogey on the opening hole with 16 pars and a birdie for an even-par 72.
It was enough to edge Davenport West's Aaron Willie by a stroke, 148-149.
"I felt like every hole I had control of where the ball was going to go," Gogel said. "I had a lot of lip-outs, but par is a good score on this course."
Cain was third in the individual race with rounds of 77 and 75. Tom Schebler and Griffin Steer had 79 and 82, respectively, to round out Assumption's low four Saturday.
It was the sixth tournament title of the season for the Knights. They also have won the Macomb, North Scott, Assumption, Clinton and Davenport City invitationals.
"We've proven all year we're more than capable of winning," Cain said. "We just knew going in, if everyone just shot solid or better than their average, we'd be fine."
The close call last year fueled this year's comeback.
"On the second day, sometimes you get more nerves," Gogel said. "We controlled our nerves today knowing we had been there before."
Assumption, with four players back from that squad, trailed by a shot going into last year's final round. The Knights built a nine-stroke lead on the back nine before scuffling down the stretch.
"We told them over the summer you work toward goals, and our goal this year was we don't want to leave MAC with strokes on the course," coach Gary Laake said. "We did last year.
"I'm not sure if we thought we had it won, but I knew it was going to be very close again. Usually in the MAC meet, there are no runaways."
Muscatine held a four-shot lead over Bettendorf heading into Saturday's final round. The Muskies had only two players shoot lower scores than Friday — Bryce Howard 79 to 77 and JT Manjoine 85 to 77.
"It was a situation they actually needed to be in," Muscatine coach Scott Schultz said. "We played great for 18 holes, but you have to be able to validate that. I saw 100 percent effort out there, but the kids are bummed.
"But where we were last year at this time, we're leaps and bounds ahead. This hurts a little, but we'll be OK."
Bettendorf had the fourth- and fifth-place finishers in Benny Flanagan (153 total) and Trever Rogan (154).
Willie, seeking to be West's first MAC medalist in 20 years, was one of the first players to finish. He had to anxiously wait for about a half-hour to see if his 74-75 would be good enough.
Gogel made par at the 18th to avoid a sudden-death playoff.
"It stings a little bit right now, but I'm sure (Sunday) I'll look at it and say, 'I still played really good,'" Willie said. "This gives me the confidence to know I can shoot a low number and put me on the leaderboard at districts."
All 10 MAC schools will participate in the Class 4A district meet Oct. 3 at Palmer Hills Golf Course along with Dubuque Wahlert, Linn-Mar and Ottumwa.