WRIGHT – It was an historic night for Niobrara County High School as the Tigers passed a milestone and exorcised a demon last Friday night.
Lusk entered the contest with 499 all-time victories, yet none against the Panthers since the 2000 season. The span of two decades and eight straight losses included the past two that kept Lusk out of the playoffs.
Drake Lamp set the tone early with a 42-yard gallop to the endzone on the second play of the game, but Jasper Caldera was denied on the conversion.
Moments later, Riley Blackburn covered up a Panther fumble at midfield, and Aiden Applegarth pushed the lead up with his 26-yard run around the right end. Caldera got in on his second attempt and NCHS led 14-0 after one period.
After a defensive stop, the Tigers advanced down to the 1-yard line where it was certain Walker Kupke crossed the goal line, but the officials felt differently. Caldera pushed through without a doubt for the score and Kupke’s pass to Mason Wells moved the lead to 22-0.
NCHS suddenly got complacent while the home team did a nice job keeping Lamp from running wild. Foolish penalties from the red and white helped Wright move inside the 10-yard line before Parker Worman connected with Kayden Mack on a nine-yard score. Dawson Priewe booted the point after, and the home team had the momentum entering the break.
Lamp collected a couple of first downs as the Tiger offense made modest gains. Kupke connected with Applegarth for a 14-yard touchdown pass, but Caldera was stood up on the conversion attempt. 28-7 was the score but it seemed the Tigers should have been up by more.
The turning point came when Caldera pounced on a Panther fumble and Lamp carried in for the 10-yard touchdown. Applegarth was held out of the endzone yet the Tigers had a 34-7 advantage with one quarter to play.
A noticeably gimpy Kupke soldiered on into the fourth, as Lusk wore down the home team. Lamp finally broke a long run for 83 yards to pay dirt, but Applegarth was stuffed on the conversion. The scoreboard moved to 40-7 with nine minutes still remaining.
As Wright went to the air in hopes of closing the gap, Aric Eaton snagged a Worman pass and weaved his way for a 40-yard pick six. Mason Wells was wide open for Kupke on the conversion in the 48-7 final score.
When the Tigers broke the post-game huddle, Eaton informed the squad of the significance this game meant to a hearty round of cheers.
Despite the large win, head coach Ryan Nelson was not completely satisfied.
“Too many penalties and missed assignments and didn’t play as hard as we’re capable of,” he said.
This week the Tigers host Rocky Mountain in a rare mid-season battle of top five teams. The 4-0 Grizzlies are ranked second in the Wyopreps.com Coaches and Media Poll just ahead of the 5-0 Tigers.
“We’ve tried real hard to not get ahead of ourselves, but we may have a little tonight,” Nelson said. “They have been ranked ahead of us all season, and it’s a chance to see where we stack up against, clearly the best team the West Conference has to offer.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Gibson Field at Fullmer Stadium.
The JV team led Lingle-Ft Laramie 8-0 at halftime Monday night before David West and Jayce Cummins got together on the final play of regulation for the 14-0 win.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCHS 14 8 12 14 – 48
WHS 7 0 0 0 – 7
NCHS: Passing 2/3, 30 yards. Rushing 40 attempts/419 yards. 14 first downs. 15 penalties/65 yards.
WHS: Passing 5/11, 39 yards. Rushing 39 attempts/96 yards. 10 first downs. 3 turnovers.
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Passing – Kupke 2/3, 30 yards, TD. Rushing – Lamp 21 attempts/302 yards, 3 TDs; Caldera 12/67, TD; Applegarth 1/26, TD; Molzahn 5/23; Kupke 1/1. Receiving – Applegarth 2 catches/30 yards, TD. Defensive points – Molzahn 31; Dayne Lamp 29; Caldera 18; Blackburn 17; Eaton 7; Dr. Lamp 7; Wells 7; Applegarth 4; Stanton Ricketts 3; Miles Ashurst 2.