Since NCHS and Southeast became SEWAC rivals almost 40 years ago, they have dominated together-in taking the heavy majority of conference crowns and many state championship banners. Usually the regular season meeting would have significant playoff seeding on the line. The 42nd meeting last Friday night in Yoder had a much different feel as the two were fighting for the last playoff spot, and trip to West nemesis Cokeville for the quarterfinals.
The game started ominously as Cyclone senior quarterback Brady Fullmer marched his team downfield before calling his own number for a four yard touchdown run just three minutes in. The kick attempt was wide right yet the home team struck first. The Tigers responded as James Stone took the second play from scrimmage up the middle for a 61 yard scoring run. Lusk’s first PAT attempt in two years was booted by Cole Mellott, but a Cyclone got his hand on it to send it awry. SE got into the endzone one more time in the opening quarter as Dawson Beck scored from 14 yards away. Tiger Ryan Gilkey broke the pass up-yet the lead was 12-6 SE after one slow moving quarter.
Gilkey answered just one minute into the second on a punt return that was sprung for the final 60 on Drake Lamp’s timely block. The senior went 93 yards- just five short of Tony Gladson’s school record set in 1981- to knot the game at 12. Lamp carried in the conversion and NCHS led 14-12. The most common thread of the Tigers entire season has been one of moving the ball downfield, but coming up without points on red zone trips. It happened again Friday night as Lusk got all the way to the one yard line and was stuffed right before halftime. “I think if we could have scored right before the half that might have changed things,” said Head Coach Ryan Nelson.
Fullmer got the Cyclones the lead back with a one yard touchdown deep into the third period before NCHS was marching again. The Tigers got down to the three yard line before a lightning delay sent the players to the locker rooms and fans to their cars. As people dispersed, senior Traylin Bruegger was helped to his parents vehicle with what appeared to be a broken collarbone. 40 minutes later play resumed for the final 2:22 and the Tigers retied the game at 20 with Kyle Anderson’s fourth down plunge. Lamp was denied the conversion yet NCHS had all of the fourth quarter to go.
Beck scored barely a minute in, and while Fullmer was held out for the two-point attempt, the balloon had burst for Lusk. Fullmer scored again five minutes later, this time from 24 yards and added the conversion for a 34-20 Cyclone win. There was no fight left in these Tigers (3-5), as Lusk missed the playoffs for the third straight year. While seven seniors graduate, numbers are small across the other classes. Help is on the way as the first wave of Peewee Tigers join the fold next fall. Nearly a dozen boys from the Class of 2022 are looking to make an impact and turn it around.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCHS 6 8 6 0 20
SE 12 0 8 14 34
NCHS: Passing 0/4; Rushing 39/275; 5 first downs; 1 fumble/0 lost; 7 penalties/55 yds.
SE: Passing 2/3, 15 yds; Rushing 64/427; 18 first downs; 8 penalties/45 yds.
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Passing- Anderson 0/4. Rushing- Lamp 24/140; Stone 8/101; Gilkey 2/27; Anderson 4/5; Damien Molzahn 1/ 2. Defensive points: Molzahn 28; Garrett Wurdeman 18; Gilkey 16; Stone 16; Jake Heil 12; Mellott 10; Jasper Caldera 8; Ryan Bruegger 7; Teagan Tschacher 6; T. Bruegger 5; Jacob Miller 4; Wyatt Stauffer 2; Anderson 1.