Tigers drop opener in Pine Bluffs

Barb Rapp/For the Lusk Herald Sean Johnson looks for an opening around a Pine Bluffs defender.

PINE BLUFFS – Friday night at Carlstrum Field in Pine Bluffs, Niobrara County High School finally got an actual game to play. It was an early season conference meeting between a pair of teams with deep post season expectations. Yet, it was apparent right away which team had already played a meaningful game, and it wasn’t the Tigers.

The Hornets struck first when Stu Lerwick connected with Ryan Fornstrom for a 35-yard score. Dayne Lamp blocked the attempt, but the home team led 6-0 midway through the first period. Lusk would gain positive yardage, but mistakes kept them from sustained drives.

As the second quarter began, Dylan Molzahn was able to cross the goal line from three yards and added the two-point run for an 8-6 Tiger advantage. But the Hornets answered when Dalton Schaefer made it to the endzone from ten yards. The point after was negated by a Pine Bluffs penalty, yet they led 12-6 at the break.

The Tigers continued to look out of sync with penalties, miscommunication and a home team feeling more confident. Lerwick hooked up with Collin Jessen, and Jessen broke free for an 80-yard touchdown. Emiliano Castillo kicked the point after, and the lead became 19-8 for the home squad.

After a short series from Lusk, Lerwick and Ty Sweeter got together and the big tight end made it to the endzone from seven yards away. Castillo booted the PAT and the Hornets were in control 26-8. Lerwick finished off the scoring and the Tigers with a 61-yard touchdown run with 6:31 remaining. The PAT hit the crossbar in the 32-8 final.

“It did hurt us by not having a game under our belt like they did, and they were ready to play,” said head coach Ryan Nelson. “I hope that one worked out the kinks, but like I told the boys, there’s a lot of football left, and we’ll probably see them again down the road.”

This week the Tigers host Moorcroft for the first time since 2014. It is a sense of homecoming for Moorcroft head coach Travis Santistevan. The 2008 NCHS grad is in his fourth year leading the Wolves and makes his first trip to Fullmer Stadium as the opposing coach. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

“They’ve got an all-state quarterback back, but after that I’m not sure,” added Nelson. “We’ll watch some tape and I’m pretty sure Coach Santistevan will have something in his bag of tricks.”

The JV defeated Crawford, Neb. 26-18 last week in a six-man game. Monday evening, they went to Yoder and won 30-0.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

NCHS 0 8 0 0 – 8

PBHS 6 6 7 13 – 32

TEAM STATS

NCHS: Passing 1/3, 9 yards; Rushing 57 attempts/323 yards; First Downs 16; Fumbles 2/ lost 2; Penalties 10/45 yards.

PBHS: Passing 5/14, 170 yards; Rushing 24/166; First Downs 8; Fumbles 1/ lost 1; Penalties 3/15.

NCHS PLAYER STATS: Passing – Walker Kupke 1/3, 9 yards. Rushing – Aiden Applegarth 21/126; Molzahn 18/115, TD; Lamp 6/37; Kupke 8/34; David West 2/15. Receiving – Mason Wells 1 catch/9 yards. Defensive points – Molzahn 16; Lamp 16; Applegarth 14; Kupke 10; Miles Ashurst 6; Jayce Cummins 5; Riley Blackburn 4; Wells 4; Sean Johnson 3; West 2.

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