By RANDY POSPISHIL
It appeared early on, and through the first three periods, in Saturday afternoon’s seventh-annual Northeast Nebraska All-Star Football Classic, that the White team’s balanced offensive attack would cruise to victory.
By then, two Connor Clayton (Norfolk) field goals of 27- and 30-yards, a 72-yard touchdown completion from Battle Creek’s Ty Heimes to Jadyn Smeal of Guardian Angels Central Catholic, and a 49-yard interception return by Riverside’s Ty Martinsen had the White squad leading 20-0.
“We were trying to get everybody involved, and balanced is a good word for it; we tried to hit a number of different spots,” White team coach Ron Beacom (Neligh-Oakdale) said. “We felt our ‘skill players’ might be our advantage, but I thought we were pretty good up front defensively today. With what we got from our kicking game, we were pretty solid in all three phases.”
However, the Red team continued to patiently feature a rushing effort by Randolph’s Noah Scott (34 carries, 158 yards) and also took advantage of an All-Star game-score rule to score 10-straight fourth quarter points by way of a 27-yard field goal by Devan Roth of Pierce and a nine-yard rushing touchdown by Ponca quarterback Evan Anderson to close within 20-10 with just under five minutes remaining.
“We knew we’d have to run the ball; we had some young men who weren’t able to participate, so we knew Noah was going to have a lot of carries,” Red team coach Tom Allen (Crofton) said. “The 17-point rule helped us, and they probably got a little conservative just to get the game under their belt, but it gave us some chances to come back and tie it. It was a fun finish.”
That comeback had seemed improbable when the Red team’s first possession of the second half–featuring its first use of a three-receivers-to-one side set–ended after one play on an interception by Oakland-Craig’s Robby Mayberry and set up Clayton’s second field goal and the White’s 20-0 lead early in the third quarter. But the Red squad’s persistence nearly turned into a victory in the final moments.
By then the Red offense had bounced back from the interception to forge a 17-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with Roth’s field goal and, after being allowed to receive the ball–employing a Classic rule that allows a team trailing by 17-points to possess the ball again–put together a similar drive, this time using 12 plays to cover 80 yards, with Anderson covering the final nine yards by following Scott into the line. A key play in the drive was a 33-yard halfback pass from Scott to Gage McGill of Ponca.
A third-consecutive scoring chance ended when Clayton stepped in front of a Red team receiver inside the 10-yard line to pick off Anderson, but after its defense forced a three-and-out by the White offense, Roth sent a 46-yard field goal through the uprights to bring the Red team to within 20-13.
Norfolk Catholic’s Jalen Robinson recovered the ensuing onside kick for the Red team with two seconds left and, on the game’s final play, a touchdown-preventing tackle of Scott on the 10-yard line by Mayberry stopped the Red squad’s ‘hook-and-ladder’ gadget play to preserve the White team’s 20-13 win.
“We didn’t practice that play this week; we had some other trick plays, but we decided to run that, and it almost made it,” Allen said. “The kid made a great tackle.”
Quarterbacks Anderson (7-of-12, 66 yards) and Heimes (6-of-7, 101 yards) paced the White team’s offense to a combined 167 yards through the air, while the Red squad accumulated 130 passing yards from Evan Anderson (5-of-13, 71 yards), Scott (1-of-1, 33 yards), and Wynot’s Landon Wieseler (2-of-5, 26 yards) to go with Scott’s rushing yards, but combined for three interceptions as well.
“It was a great week; our goal was to pick 36 kids we thought we could play, and we focused on those spots,” Beacom said. “I really loved the way the kids came together; they really played for each other, played really hard, and had a lot of fun–and that was the goal for the week.”
Allen agreed that he enjoyed his team and interacting with the coaches on his staff.
“Working with the other coaches, being able to spend time with them and learn from them–you get lifelong friendships,” he said. “And the kids are just unbelievable; these northeast Nebraska kids are courteous and polite, and they’re great football players.”
Individual “teammate” awards went to Clayton (White) and Brad Tomasek (Red, Crofton). Also, Ben Vander Griend (White, West Point-Beemer) and Scott (Red) won “offensive player” honors, while Martinsen (White) and Kyle Smith (Red, Allen) earned “defensive player” designation.
Score by quarters
Red 0 0 0 13 — 13
White 3 14 3 0 — 20
White: Connor Clayton 27 FG, 5:59.
White: Jadyn Smeal 72 pass from Ty Heimes (Clayton kick), 2:56.
White: Ty Martinsen 49 int return (Clayton kick), 1:04.
White: Clayton 30 FG, 7:59.
Red: Devan Roth 27 FG, 11:11.
Red. Evan Anderson 9 run (Roth kick), 4:52.
Red: Roth 46 FG, :05.