Tigers’ title hopes denied

Andrew Towne/Torrington Telegram Mason Wells chases down Southeast quarterback Hayden Anderson for a sack in the first quarter of Friday’s state championship game.

YODER – Hundreds of fans wearing red and white filled the south sideline, while hundreds of blue-clad fans packed the north sideline at Teeters Memorial Field last Friday night. Not only is it one of the best rivalries in Wyoming, the 2020 Class 1A 9-Man state championship game was a rematch from barely a month ago.

The skies were dark and the wind blew, but for a Friday evening nearing mid-November, football weather was perfect.

Fourteen seconds into the game, Jasper Caldera stripped the ball from the Cyclone runner Brant Fullmer, but the offense couldn’t take advantage.

Southeast was forced to punt, and the Tigers made good on the next series. Walker Kupke delivered a toss to Mason Wells. Wells made a nice catch and nifty run to the endzone for a 35-yard touchdown. Caldera was held up on the conversion, but Lusk had struck first.

Hayden Anderson tied the game up with an 8-yard run, but the point after was blocked. After one tense quarter, the score was knotted at six.

Caldera had the ball ripped from his arms minutes into the second quarter, as the Cyclones took over on the 21 yard line. Cord Herring gave the home team the lead, and Ryan Clapper’s PAT made it 13-6. The Tigers would answer with a 75-yard drive, capitalized by another Kupke to Wells touchdown from 5-yards away. Drake Lamp’s conversion run retook the lead for NCHS, 14-13 at halftime.

The Tigers opened the second half with possession of the ball, and the took just five plays for Lusk to add to their lead. The drive was capped off by Lamp finally broke free on the left side and raced 65 yards to paydirt. Kupke connected with Aiden Applegarth for the conversion and a 22-13 lead.

It didn’t last long. Herring scored from 3-yards away minutes later, and Clapper’s PAT pulled the Cyclones within two.

The final five minutes of the quarter is when it started slipping away from the Tigers, as two fumbles led to one Cyclone touchdown. Dylan Molzahn’s interception and return stopped the second drive, and put NCHS on the 32-yard line. Three plays later Lamp’s 16-yard run gave the Tigers a 28-27 lead after the conversion was incomplete.

The Cyclones wildcat offense kept the Tigers on their heels most of the night, and in the final 12 minutes, finally took over the game. Herring scored twice in two minutes wrapped around another Tiger turnover and suddenly the home team had the momentum behind a 40-28 lead. Clapper put the final dagger in the Tigers with a 31-yard blast to the endzone with 4:33 remaining.

Southeast ended Lusk’s season at 8-3 in the 47-28 loss.

“I think the energy just fell out of us there in the fourth quarter,” said head coach Ryan Nelson. “And all those turnovers, you just can’t do that at this time in the season. But I think they’ve learned that playoff football is a little different and hope the underclassmen use it as motivation for next year.”

SCORE BY QUARTERS

NCHS 6 8 14 0  – 28

SEHS 6 7 14 20  – 47

TEAM STATS

NCHS: Passing 4 comp/9 atts, 76 yds. Rushing 51 atts/271 yds. Receiving 4 catches/76 yds. 10 First Downs. 5 Fumbles/4 lost. 7 Penalties/45 yds.

SEHS: Passing 6/12, 113 yds. Rushing 46/288. Receiving 6/113. 16 First Downs. 2 Fumbles/1 lost. 5 Penalties/35 yds.

NCHS PLAYER STATS: Passing- Kupke 4/9, 76 yds, 2TDs. Rushing- Lamp 35/223, 2 TDs; Caldera 13/45; Jayce Cummins 1 att/4 yds; Kupke 1 att/2 yds; Applegarth 1/-3. Receiving- Wells 3 catches/60 yds, 2 TDs; Cummins 1/16. Defensive Points- Dayne Lamp 33; Dylan Molzahn 32; Caldera 23; Riley Blackburn 8; Applegarth 8; Miles Ashurst 6; Eaton 5; Kupke 5; Cummins 4; Wells 3; Coffman 1.

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