Hoxie's run comes to a halt
By NICK McQUEEN
JETMORE -- Its previous three games had brought about multiple signature wins for a Hoxie High School football team enjoying its deepest playoff run since 1981.
Friday night against perennial contender Jetmore-Hodgeman County, the wheels just fell off against its third unbeaten opponent in Hoxie's final four contests.
Hodgeman County moved to 12-0 after it pulled away in the second half for a 58-26 victory over the Indians at Sayler Field.
"It's been a heck of a ride," Hoxie coach Lance Baar said. "The last four games, it's been an unbelievable last few weeks. It's been fun."
Hoxie knocked off unbeaten-Atwood-Rawlins County in Week 9 of the regular season, beat one-loss Spearville in the first round of the playoffs, then upended unbeaten Greensburg-Kiowa County in the quarterfinals.
But, Hoxie's run ended at the hands of Hodgeman County for the second straight season, and the Longhorns, a cooperative between longtime powers Jetmore and Hanston, will make their first state title appearance since Jetmore was a runner-up in 2006. Hanston last made state in 2004 and won.
"We felt like we could score," Longhorn coach Matt Housman said. "But it was just about when we could stop them.
"We finally just turned the guys loose a little bit, and stopped sitting back there waiting."
Perhaps Hodgeman County's biggest stop came in the second quarter. With the two teams exchanging scores early, Hoxie was looking to score again to knot the game for the third time with just under two minutes to play before halftime.
The Indians, trailing 20-14, failed on fourth-and-9 from the Longhorn 20-yard line. Three plays later, Hodgeman County junior running back Kolt Washburn broke loose for 50 yards to give the Longhorns a 28-14 lead by the break.
"They were beating us up front from the very beginning of the game," Baar said. "We just couldn't stop them or hold them. Their size was definitely a factor in the game."
The teams exchanged scores on their first two possessions of the game, respectively, to make it 14-14. But the halftime deficit on the momentum swing was too much to overcome.
"That was pretty big, but going into halftime, I just told the kids 'We're down two scores,' " Baar said. "In eight-man football, we can get out of that. We came out in the second half and just couldn't get anything to go."
Hoxie did pull within 28-20 on their second drive of the third quarter, but it took some nifty running along the home sideline by Indian junior Connor Katt, who broke two tackles en route to a 69-yard scoring run. It was Hoxie's longest run play of the night by 55 yards.
After that, though, plays came in big chunks for Hodgeman County, which ate away at the clock with more power running with Washburn and senior quarterback Alex Kreger.
Kreger, who had a 41-yard TD run in the first quarter, finished the night with 29 carries for 232 yards. Washburn added 16 touches for 131.
"We've spread the ball around to a lot of different guys," Housman said. "They have been the go-to guys. They are always big in crunch time."
Washburn's 20-yard TD run put Hodgeman County up 36-20 by the end of the third quarter. Down two scores, Hoxie went for it with 10:03 to play in the game on fourth-and-5 from its own 30-yard line. Katt's run came up just shy of the marker, and four plays later, Hodgeman County was in the end zone. Things snowballed on the Indians from there with one more failed fourth-down attempt and a fumble, leading to quick scores for the Longhorns.
"We never gave up," Baar said. "We wanted to finish the game strong, and play Hoxie football. We play start to finish, no matter what. That's kind of our motto all year long."
Katt scored the game's final TD from 1 yard out to cap his night with 22 carries for 175 yards. Senior quarterback Chase Kennedy had 17 carries for 61 yards and completed 3 of 7 passes for 27 yards. Hodgeman County had 404 total yards of offense. The Longhorns now face unbeaten Osborne in the Division I championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Fischer Field in Newton.
Osborne 42 Clifton-Clyde 34
CLYDE -- To start Friday's other Division I semifinal, unbeaten Osborne had a 20-6 lead, but Clifton-Clyde, a team the Bulldogs beat 80-32 earlier in the season, came roaring back and set up a wild finish.
The Eagles, at one point in the fourth, had a one-score lead, and Osborne tied things back up, then took the lead late. It took an interception by Osborne's Kenton Ubelaker in the end zone to seal the win for the Bulldogs, who will make their first state title appearance since winning it all in 1983 (3A).
Ubelaker and senior Maverick LeRock combined for 226 rushing yards and five rushing scores, while sophomore quarterback Jake Tiernan rushed six times for 29 yards. Tiernan also completed 8 of 16 passes for 108 yards and a score with one interception. Junior Brandt Wolters caught three passes for 63 yards.