By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Friday’s match-up at Grant proved to be everything one would expect when the Longhorns and the Plainsmen square off on the football field.
After four quarters of hard-fought, hard-nosed football, the Longhorns clinched a spot in the C2 playoffs with a 12-6 win over Perkins County.
Coach Dan Lenners said it was by far the most physical game his Longhorns have played this season.
“That was good to see after a week off,” Lenners noted. The Longhorns didn’t play the week before because Bayard forfeited due to a flu outbreak.
Perkins County faithfuls agreed about the hard hitting, saying they hadn’t heard the pads pop all year like they did Friday night.
Lenners said he hopes the Longhorns continue to play like that as they enter the playoffs today (Thursday) at Cambridge.
With the 12-6 win Friday, the 6-2 Longhorns assured themselves a spot in the playoffs, securing the #11 seed in the 16-team western bracket.
They face Cambridge, a team that handed them a 20-7 loss in the third week of the season.
“I’m confident we can play with Cambridge, and the kids are too,” Lenners said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity.
Take away a late score by Cambridge and the Longhorns were within a touchdown most of the game.
Defense shines at Grant
Lenners praised the defense for their effort at Grant. With the exception of one long pass play, the Longhorns guarded their goal line well.
Considering the field conditions, Lenners said their efforts proved even bigger.
The game had been postponed from Thursday to Friday after about 6 inches of snow covered the field Thursday.
Grant cleared the snow but when temps rose Friday, snow on top of the school melted and ran into the east 10 yards of the field. Sump pumps were used during the day to get water off the field.
The field was somewhat wet and slippery but both teams managed the conditions well.
The Longhorns got on the board first after the two teams exchanged punts on their first two possessions.
The Longhorns took advantage of a Perkins County fumble recovered by Daniel Regier at the Perkins County 40.
Eight plays later, Regier dove over from the one for the score. Misael Garcia’s kick went wide left, keeping the score 6-0 with 9:41 left in the first half.
After exchanging another set of punts, Perkins County got on the board with a 64-yard touchdown pass.
After their kicker was roughed on the extra point, they went for two but the Longhorns’ Tyler Roenfeldt stuffed the play.
Perkins County recovered a Longhorn fumble 23 yards from the goal line but again the defense held.
The Plainsmen set up for a field goal but tried to fake it and fell short of the first down to kill the drive.
In the second half, the Longhorns started their second possession on their own 46 after a Perkins County punt.
Mixing the pass and the run, the Longhorns moved toward the goal line, converting four fourth down attempts, including the touchdown.
With a 4th-and-9 from the PC 16, Michael May pulled down an Alex Strand pass for the first down at the 6.
On fourth-and-goal, Strand found Regier in the end zone for the go-ahead score.
The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Longhorns up 12-6 with 9:19 left to play.
The Longhorns controlled the ball for another five minutes after recovering a Plainsmen fumble at the PC 37.
The Longhorns moved the ball to the PC five but could not get it across the goal line.
With 3:04 left, Perkins County got the ball back with 89 yards to go.
The Longhorn defense made sure that didn’t happen, forcing Perkins County to turn the ball over on downs four plays later to secure the 12-6 win.
Offensively, the Longhorns gained 143 yards rushing, led by Paul Gaschler with 51 yards.
The Longhorns also gained 69 yards passing with May the leading receiver with 47 yards on five catches.
The defense limited the Plainsmen to just 82 yards on the ground and 65 yards in the air, with 64 of it coming on one play.
Tanner Stromberger led the defense with a total of 11 tackles including two solos.
Game time 5 p.m. MT
Game time for tonight’s playoff opener at Cambridge begins at 5 p.m. MT.
The Trojans bring a 5-3 record into the playoffs, falling to the top three seeds in the western bracket, Elm Creek, Blue Hill and North Platte St. Pat’s.
With a win tonight, the Longhorns would play the winner of the St. Pat’s/Perkins County game here on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
Other Longhorn opponents making the playoffs include Sutherland and Southwest.
A bracket of the C-2 western division appears elsewhere in the sports.
A full bracket for all classes can be found at www.nsaahome. org.
Stats at a glance
Tackles (solos-assists)—Tanner Stromberger 9-2, Alex Strand 6-2, Tyler Roenfeldt 4-2, Daniel Regier 4-1, Daniel Hogsett 2-1, Lucas Bauerle 2-1, Jeremiah Lueth 2-1, Nathan Hinojosa 1-1, Misael Garcia 1-1, Paul Gaschler 0-1, Jakob Burke 0-1, Michael May 0-1, Ethan Haarberg 0-1.
Rushing (attempts-yards-TD)—Paul Gaschler 18-51-0, Michael May 11-32-0, Alex Strand 12-23-0, Daniel Regier 8-19-1, Misael Garcia 6-11-0, Jeremiah Lueth 2-7-0.
Receiving (completions-yards-TD-2 pt. conv.)—Michael May 5-47-0-0, Jakob Burke 1-14-0-0, Paul Gaschler 1-5-0-0, Daniel Regier 1-3-1-0.
Passing (attempts-completions-yards-interceptions-TD-2 pt. conv.)—Alex Strand 16-8-69-0-1-0.
CCS: Daniel Regier 1 yd TD run, kick by Misael Garcia no good.
Grant: 64 yd. TD pass from Michael York to Kye Kurkowski, 2-pt conversion failed.
CCS: 4 yd. TD pass from Alex Strand to Daniel Regier, 2-pt. conversion failed.
CCS 0 6 0 6—12
Grant 0 6 0 0— 6