Durant’s last possession of the district football game with the Beckman Blazers, Sept. 25, was a showcase of the entire night.
After the Blazers scored their final points, a field goal from Logan Burchard for a 24-17 lead, with 1:46 left in the game, the Wildcats took over and split non-stop running plays between their leading ground gainer of the night, Nolan DeLong (17 carries for 160 yards) and quarterback Keegan Head. DeLong quickly gained the first down, Head the second, DeLong the third, Head the fourth and got his team to the Blazer 32 with 26 seconds left.
The Blazer defense knocked down his pass attempt and he spiked the ball on the second down to stop the clock. With 20 seconds left, Beckman’s defense, in the form of Jason Koopmann and Brett Burlage, took him down in the backfield, losing yards. On the fourth down, he tried, again and again, got sacked, setting off a Blazer celebration on the field as the clock signaled the end of the game.
Coach Mark Atwater added, “When it came down to it, our defense stepped up in a big way and was able to finish off their last drive. We knew if we could get a sack in that last situation it would end the game. Fortunately for us, we made it happen.
“We just can’t seem to get away from close games. We will take anything we can get. Once again I am so proud of how our team fights and how hard they play. We put ourselves in great situations but just weren’t always able to capitalize.”
The game was all it was forecast to be, between two undefeated in Class 2A district play teams. Durant took the opening kick and used seven plays before settling for a field goal when that solid Blazer D held them to three yards gained on three downs inside the 20.
The Blazers systematically drove downfield, using the legs of running back Owen Huehnergarth, who gained 63 yards on the drive that ended with a Nick Offerman-to-Trent Koelker pass of 13 yards and a 7-3 lead when steady Logan Burchard made the first of his three PATs on the night.
At the start of the second quarter, the Blazers found their drive stymied by an interception, only to see Elliot Naughton recover a Wildcat fumble and keep the Blazers right there to begin their drive again. Four plays later the Wildcats picked off Offerman again and turned this one into a 68-yard touchdown to take a 9-7 lead.
They had chances on the next series to score, especially when, forced to punt, Blazer Nick Wulfekuhle recovered the ball and put the Blazers on the Wildcat 26. But the teams ended up trading punts again, until the Blazers took over with 1:06 left in the half at their own 35. Eight plays later, with just 18 seconds showing, Offerman connected with a wide-open Naughton for a 14-9 lead going into the break.
Midway through the third, Durant scored on a 78-yard DeLong run and regained the lead, 15-14, making it 17-14 when the two-point conversion was good.
Beginning the final frame, the Wildcats were moving again when Drew Soppe stuck Head in the backfield on third-and-long, forcing a short punt that gave the Blazers the ball at midfield. They capitalized, needing six plays for Offerman to sneak the last yard for a 21-17 lead. On Durant’s next series, Head was sacked and then lost yardage again on the next play, forcing a punt that gave the Blazers the ball at their 37 with 5:30 left in the game. They milked that clock, and Offerman gained the majority of the yards on his feet, setting up the Burchard field goal at the 16-yard line for the 24-17 final mark.
Atwater added, “We don’t always make things pretty but we have found ways to win. I’m happy for our team, our staff, our school and our community as a whole. This was a great Homecoming win.”
As a team, the Blazers amassed 25 first downs, twice that of Durant, and 384 yards, to Durant’s 289. They ran 72 plays to Durant’s 43.
Individual stats include: passing — Offerman 13-of-28 for 174 yards; receiving— Conner Grover 5-for-112, Koelker 7-for-58, Naughton 1-for-4; rushing — Offerman 18-for-114, Huehnergarth 19-for-76, Max Mullis 2-for-11, Ty Fangmann 4-for-9; punt returns — Koelker 2-for-26; kick returns — Luke Schieltz 3-for-42; tackles — Huehnergarth 5.5 (two for loss), Luke Hirsch four, Lane Kramer, Grover and Koopmann (.5) three, Soppe 2.5 (one), Michael Dinan 2.5 (.5), Burchard, Koelker and Naughton two, Mullis, Wulfekuhle and Cayden Gassmann one; Fangman, Schieltz and Burlage .5.