SARATOGA – Four hours on a bus tends to create tired legs, unfocused minds and long stretches between bathroom breaks, but the Niobrara County High School football team battled hard to earn their first win of the season Saturday afternoon in Carbon County.
Neither team showed much offense early until Tiger junior David West got loose for a 64-yard run to the endzone at the 7:14 mark. Colton Coffman was denied on the conversion, but Lusk took the first period lead.
On the first play of the second quarter, West jumped in to intercept a Panther pass and ended their drive deep into Tiger territory. The offense couldn’t take advantage and the half ended 6-0.
As the third quarter began, the Panthers put together their strongest drive so far. The drive came up five yards short before Dayne Lamp intercepted the pass for the Tigers. When the offense faltered, Lamp kept the punt snap and ran over half a dozen Saratoga guys for 23 yards. Alas, the period expired, and Lusk still held a narrow 6-0 lead.
On the Tigers first play, Nathan Miller took the ball and raced 59 yards for a touchdown. West carried in for the conversion and with 8:30 left, NCHS had room to exhale at 14-0.
The freshman Miller collected Lusk’s third interception of the game and made his way 17 yards for the score. Coffman was held short on the conversion but smiles along the Tiger sideline enjoyed the 20-0 lead with little time remaining.
As every player in uniform shuffled in during the final five minutes, the home team was able to score late. With 45 seconds remaining, Ridge Kupke took the victory formation twice to run out the clock and first win of the Chris Skeen era, just minutes before heavy rain began to fall.
“It was a struggle to begin, and Saratoga never quit,” Skeen said.
He was pleased with both sides of the ball and the teamwork.
“It was great, they fought hard, and everybody played together,” Skeen said.
In addition to the three interceptions, Lusk came up with five pass break-ups and one sack.
The schedule doesn’t get easier as Homecoming has Southeast visiting Gibson Field at Fullmer Stadium Friday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCHS 6 0 0 14 – 20
SHS 0 0 0 8 – 8
NCHS: Passing – 3 comp/7 atts, 77 yds. Rushing – 36 atts/200 yds. 6 first downs. 9 penalties/81 yds.
SHS: Passing – 14/38, 163 yds, 3 INT. Rushing – 28/95. 11
first downs. 6 penalties/40 yds.
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Passing – Jackson Smith 3/6, 77 yds; Kupke 0/1. Rushing – West 19 atts/106 yds, TD; N. Miller 10/76, TD; Smith 2/10; Colton Coffman 3/8. Receiving – N. Miller 2 catches/43 yds; Caleb Miller 1/34. Defensive points – Lamp 23; N. Miller 18; Coffman 16; West 12; C. Miller 9; Kupke 6; Blake Miller 6; Quintin Bieri 4; Smith 3; Miles Ashurst 3; Gabe Matthews 2; Aiden Dickson 2; Cody Himes 2; Enrique Maez 2; Corbin Matthews 1; Donovin Kraft 1.