When Cascade blocked Sean Kluesner’s punt near the goal line and followed it into the endzone for a touchdown with 10:39 left in the first quarter, it became a sign of things to come for the Blazers, who eventually fell, 36-20, in a Class 1A, District 4 game.
On the blustery, cold night Oct. 11 at Beckman Field, neither team could do anything with their kicking game, getting any extra-point kick they attempted blocked except one Cougar attempt that flew underneath the crossbar. Kick offs with the wind at the teams’ backs were long and hard to handle, resulting in several turnovers.
After that opening series, the teams traded campaigns until the Blazers found the endzone with 4:24 left in the first quarter to tie the game at 6-6. Nick Offerman found Derick Ludwig open for a seven-yard tally.
At the start of the second quarter, traded punts put the Blazers on their own 12-yard line, where Riley Fangman got five and then had the ball stripped to give the Cougars great field position at the Blazers 24. The Cougars needed just five plays to push Colby Homes in for the second of his four touchdowns on the night (he recovered the blocked punt) and a 12-6 lead, one that held until halftime.
The third quarter was a study in the different ways teams can score. Fangman completed a short series that began at the 25 when Jose Nava-Vega dropped the ball on the kickoff. He ran four of the five plays needed to score to knot it at 12-12.
On Logan Burchard’s kick-off, Tanner Simon ran 86 yards to score, needing just 14 seconds to travel the field and put his team back up 18-12.
Fangman was not to be out-done — 21 seconds later, he raced for 65 yards and the score to tie, and when Offerman found Trent Koelker open for two, the Blazers went up 20-18. Only trouble was, it was the last time they could score.
Holmes gave the Cougars three more tallies, two in the third quarter, to regain the lead. Even though all their attempts at the extra points were either blocked or stuffed, the Cougars still won, and used some advantageous recoveries to milk the clock at the end. The first scoring series began when Nava-Vega fumbled the kick again but it fell into the hands of Ted Weber who then ran it to the Blazers 36. Three plays later, Holmes scored.
The Blazers put together an eight-play drive that stalled at midfield and the Cougars took over, using most of six minutes and 11 plays to move downfield and score with 27 seconds to go in the frame.
In the fourth quarter, Cascade took advantage of an interception by Ben Miller to begin their final drive midway through the frame. That took almost five minutes and saw Holmes again hit paydirt. The Blazers had two more drives to score and stifled the Cougars in between but couldn’t get anything to jell.
Coach Mark Atwater commented, “It was a tough night but I think there are still things that we are doing well. We just make mistakes that aren’t allowing us to come away with a win. We are physically in these games, we just can’t seem to make enough plays to get the win. As we move forward we just need to continue to focus on more consistency. If we can be more consistent in how we do things, hopefully, it will turn out for us. It’s tough right now but I know we have a team that will continue to work and grow from this.”
As a team, the Blazers racked up 294 yards in 62 plays, while the Cougars got 249 on 53. The Blazers had 183 yards through the air, the Cougars 40. Time of possession was almost even, 24:39 for Cascade, 23:21 for the Blazers. The Cougars amassed 18 first downs, Beckman 13 and the Blazers suffered twice as much yardage in penalties, 4-for-30 versus 1-for-15.
Individually, Offerman completed 10-of-28 throws for 183 yards with one pick. They went to Ludwig 3-for-69, Koelker 2-for-52, Tom Jaeger 2-for-38, Fangman 1-for-13 and Kluesner 2-for-11. Rushing yards were mainly Fangman’s territory, 21-for-115 while Offerman carried 12 times and lost four yards. Kluesner punted six times for 193 yards. Koelker returned one punt for 12 yards. Jaeger returned three kickoffs for 82, Koelker 2-for-22 and Nick Hageman a lone onside kick for seven.
Tackle numbers included Owen Huehnergarth 10.5 (five solo), Lane Kramer six (five), Bennett English 5.5 (three, as well as two blocked kicks), Fangman five (two), Koelker three (three), Garrett Davis 2.5 (two), Ludwig and Jacob Sadler 2.5 (one), Elliot Naughton two (one) Kluesner two, Luke Kirsch 1.5, Hageman, Will Brehm, Ty Fangman and Conner Grover one (one).