Last-second play comes up three yards short
By Jay Davis
On a night that the offense struggled to produce, the Tigers fought until the very last second but could not produce a miracle as Webster Area held on to defeat Mobridge-Pollock 21-14 at Tiger Stadium on Friday.
The game was not decided until the final seconds ticked off the fourth-quarter clock. Trailing by a touchdown on the last play of the game, Alex Greger dropped back and lofted a pass down the sideline that was snared by a leaping Cody Schaefbauer. The Tiger wideout turned and broke away from two would be Webster tacklers and headed toward the end zone. Schaefbauer nearly pulled off the last-ditch effort but was finally stopped three yards from the end zone. The final play covered 59 yards.
“We kept telling them that they had to just keep doing their jobs,” said coach Nathan Lamb. “On the last drive we told them that we had about a one-percent chance of winning, but if you keep fighting, maybe we can pull this off. We almost did.”
The first half was a defensive effort. The Tigers broke out first after taking advantage of a Webster mistake.
The Tigers punted after their second possession. Webster return man Spencer Rausch muffed the ball and Tiger Jordan Feist pounced on it at the 16-yard line. On the next play, Austin Borah started right, broke a tackle and went into the end zone, giving the Tigers a 6-0 lead with 4:58 left in the first quarter.
Webster answered right back with an eight-play, 67-yard drive. Andy Rithmiller starred during the drive with four carries for 57 yards, including a 33-yard sprint to the corner of the end zone that gave the Bearcats a 7-6 lead with 1:59 left in the first quarter.
The Tiger offense would have a terrible time getting anything to work in the second half. Mobridge-Pollock had just two possessions and one first down in the third quarter and four possessions with no first downs in the fourth quarter.
The defense, on the other hand, put points on the board and gave the Tigers the lead in the third quarter when Mason Keller stepped in front of a Reid Valsvig pass and sprinted 33 yards to the end zone. Taten Rau scored the two-point conversion when Greger rolled right and found his fullback open in the flat. The Tigers led 14-7 with 6:41 left in the third quarter.
Webster started its game-tying drive late in the third quarter and scored the equalizing touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter. Rithmiller again did the honors on a seven-yard sweep. The Chris Gravely extra point tied the game at 14-14.
Two Tiger possessions later, catastrophe happened on fourth down when punter Daniel Roberts mishandled the snap and Webster got all over him to prevent the kick from getting airborne.
The visitors took advantage of great field possession by going 31 yards in four plays to take the lead. Jared McClurg scored the go-ahead touchdown from one yard out with 4:40 to play.
Two possessions later, the Tigers tried for their last-second heroics, only to come up three yards short of a miracle.
While moral victories do nothing for a team’s win total, the Tigers did have a moral victory in the loss. In a second half where the team was outgained 177 yards to 78 (including the 59 yards on the last play), the team played with heart and kept hope alive until the final gun sounded.
“One thing we talked about Monday at practice was that four kids missed part of that game for different reasons and we were still in the game at the end,” said Lamb. “If we keep making adjustments and keep getting better, we can make some noise in the playoffs.”
Along with losing and falling to 3-2, the Tigers were hit hard on the injury front as two linemen and a back went down with significant injuries. Daniel Hintz suffered a dislocated right shoulder and will be lost for the season. Cody Hanson broke his hand and his availability is up in the air. If Hanson is allowed to play with a soft cast, he will be lost as an offensive player no matter what. Stephen Gemar suffered a leg injury. The extent is not known until the results of an MRI are in, but Gemar will not be on the field this Friday.
With the Tigers suffering a severe lack of depth, the next men up will have plenty on their shoulders as undefeated, second-ranked Winner comes to Tiger Stadium for the Tigers’ regular season home finale on Friday.
The Warriors come to the Bridge City with a 5-0 record. Their last loss was to McCook Central-Montrose in last fall’s state semifinals. Winner is fresh off a 47-0 win over Platte-Geddes-Dakota Christian and has outscored its opponents 201-52 in five games.
“This is going to be a tough test,” said Lamb. “The silver lining is that we get to get some of the younger kids some valuable experience.”
Winner has been testing the Tigers and winning most of the wars since the teams started playing in 1964. Winner won that one 25-0 and after beating the Tigers 42-3 last fall, hold a 23-10 lead in the all-time series.
Webster Area (4-0)7 0 0 14- 21
Mobridge-Pollock (3-2)6 0 8 0- 14
MP- Austin Borah 16 run (kick failed)
WA- Andy Rithmiller 33 run (Chris Gravely kick)
MP- Mason Keller 33 interception return (Taten Rau pass from Alex Greger)
WA- Rithmiller 7 run (Gravely kick)
WA- Jared McClurg 1 run (Gravely kick)
Webster Area: Rushing 51-329 (Andy Rithmiller 28-200, Jared McClurg 17-77, Spencer Rausch 5-37, Reid Valsvig 1-15); Passing 3-13-1-22 (Valsvig 3-12-1-22, Rausch 0-1-0); Receiving (Rausch 2-16, Spencer Lux 1-10); 16 first downs; 3 turnovers.
Mobridge-Pollock: Rushing 24-82 (Austin Borah 15-76, Cody Schaefbauer 6-4, Alex Greger 3-2); Passing (Greger 7-23-0-84); Receiving (Schaefbauer 2-66, Mason Keller 2-15, Taten Rau 1-13, Pearson Wientjes 1-2, Borah 1-(-1); 7 first downs; 1 turnover.