After a difficult 2016, Niobrara County began the 2017 football campaign with a step forward last Friday in Burns. The Tigers will be relying on several underclassmen and new starters, and first game jitters were evident. “We were a little nervous to start,” said head coach Ryan Nelson. “It was pretty quiet in the locker room before.”
The Broncs took less than two minutes to score first as Tyler Norris connected with Alex Pyle for a 56 yard touchdown pass. The conversion was no good-yet Burns led 6-0. NCHS coughed the ball up on the next series and again Norris and Pyle took advantage with a 26 yard touchdown connection. Once again the Tigers stopped the conversion but trailed by a dozen. Lusk used the final six minutes to move down the field and got on the scoreboard when sophomore Wyatt Stauffer (making his first varsity start at QB) found Ryan Gilkey for a ten yard touchdown. James Stone carried in the conversion to cut the score to 12-8 after one quarter.
Both teams struggled with penalties like holding, offsides and false starts and most of the second period was filled with these. Stone gave NCHS the lead when he broke loose for a 35 yard touchdown as halftime approached. The conversion was stuffed but the Tigers led 14-12 at halftime.
Lusk moved the ball consistently up the field, but each time they got within striking distance-mental errors pushed them back. The defense had figured out the Broncs attack and successfully shut the home team down. As the third quarter wound down, Stone again escaped the backfield for a 50 yard scamper to the end zone. Freshman Drake Lamp was stopped on the conversion but NCHS held the 20-12 lead with just one period left.
Just seconds into the fourth period, Garrett Wurdeman covered up a loose ball near midfield and a few plays later Lamp found paydirt from 19 yards away. Stone’s conversion was no good but the 26-12 lead was enough to hold up for the final seven minutes as the Tigers moved to 1-0 on the young season. “I told them to enjoy the moment, it’s been a few years since we were 1-0,” added Nelson. “I was pleased with the defensive effort- outside of a couple of plays.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCHS 8 6 6 6 26
BURNS12 0 0 0 12
NCHS: Passing 1 comp/1 att, 10 yds. Rushing 49 atts/268 yds. 8 first downs. 12 penalties/85 yds. 2 fumbles/1 lost.
BURNS: Passing 4/18, 106 yds. Rushing: 22/105. 3 first downs. 9 penalties/60 yds. 2 fumbles/2 lost.
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Passing- Stauffer 1/1, 10 yds, TD. Rushing- Stone 18/126, 2 TD; Lamp 14/77, 1 TD; Damien Molzahn 10/43; Gilkey 4/18; Stauffer 3/ 4. Receiving- Gilkey 1/10, TD. Defensive points- Molzahn 22, Cole Mellott 17, Wurdeman 12, Jake Heil 10, Gilkey 9, Tegan Tschacher 8, Stone 7, Traylin Bruegger 4, Ryan Bruegger 1, Jacob Miller 1, Jasper Caldera 1, Alec Penfield 1.
The home opener is this Friday evening as Tongue River comes to Gibson Field at Fullmer Stadium. The Eagles also come in 1-0 after defeating Wright 14-6 last week. “They’re big and physical, but did lose a big senior class,” said Nelson. “The new coach is a big power option guy, and we’re used to seeing that. We’ll watch some film and come up with a game plan, and get ready to go.” Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.