It wasn’t pretty from the start, but…
By EDDIE HIBBS III
Pioneer Publisher & Editor
Posted on August 24, 2012
It wasn’t pretty from the start, but both head coaches could walk away from Tuesday’s season-opening football contest between Bowman County and Hettinger-Scranton with some comfort.
For the Nighthawks, the team turned around a sluggish first quarter en route to a 34-0 victory. For the Bulldogs, it appears the team has taken a big step from last year’s winless season.
“No, it wasn’t very pretty for us in the first half,” Hettinger-Scranton head coach Randy Burwick, “but we played much better in the second half. They (Bowman County) came out and took it to us (to start the game). They were emotionally ready to play. We weren’t.”
A year ago when the two teams met in the 2011 season opener, the Nighthawks needed just 11 seconds to reach the end zone. This time, the Nighthawk offense wouldn’t score until late in the first half.
During the Nighthawks’ first two possessions, Hettinger-Scranton managed just 18 yards on eight plays with half of that yardage coming on a pass from junior quarterback Kye Erickson to senior Brandon Hill to open the team’s second possession.
Bowman County managed just 14 yards on 12 plays, but was aided by a horse collar call on the Nighthawk defense, giving the Bulldogs.
Despite the low total number of yards the Bulldogs gained in the first quarter, Bowman County did manage to find a few holes early in the Hettinger-Scranton defense. After junior signal caller John Yale was dropped for a 12-yard loss on Bowman County’s first play of its second possession, sophomore Chandler Braaten scampered 27 yards on the next play. Then, Yale found sophomore Kyle McGee for a 5-yard gain. After an incomplete pass, Braaten managed another big gain with a 19-yard run to the Nighthawk 21-yard line. The drive stalled, though, as the Nighthawk defense dropped the Bulldogs for losses of 2, 4 and 7 yards on the ensuing three plays.
Before the first quarter ended, the Nighthawks showed they have some skilled players on offense as well. Junior Christian Hughes picked up 33 yards to take the ball into Bulldog territory, but that drive stalled as well.
On Bowman County’s first possession of the second quarter, a high snap from center resulted in Yale covering the ball for a 19-yard loss. The same thing happened on the next play, except Yale recovered the football in the end zone for the safety with 9:50 left in the first half and the Nighthawks led 2-0.
Two injuries to a pair of key starters on the Bulldog offense altered the playbook for Bowman County the rest of the way. First to go down was sophomore running back Bondon Scott. The next to go down was Braaten. Neither returned to the game.
Bowman County’s defense, though, continued to play well in the first half. Freshman Daniel Baesler recovered a fumble by Erickson near midfield on the Nighthawks’ next possession. But, the Nighthawk defense stepped up the pressure, and the Bulldogs’ next three plays resulted in a loss of 17 yards. A poor punt put Hettinger-Scranton in excellent field position (first-and-10 at the Bowman 27) with just more than 4 minutes on the clock. However, a holding penalty moved the ball back on the next play before Hughes raced 27 yards to the 10-yard line. On the next play, the Nighthawks turned the ball over and it appeared the Bulldogs dodged a bullet.
Bowman’s offensive woes continued and the Bulldogs were forced to punt with 2:11 left in the half. Erickson received the long punt in Hettinger-Scranton territory and raced to the end zone, but a pair of flags called the touchdown back. The Bulldogs dodged another bullet, but Erickson wasn’t going to be denied. Erickson found senior Chandler Miller for an 18-yard gain, then after an incomplete pass, Erickson connected with senior Stephen Kristy for a 40-yard score with 1:11 left in the half. The two-point pass conversion failed and Hettinger-Scranton led 8-0.
“Give Bowman County credit,” Burwick said after the game. “They came ready to play.”
Bowman County’s offensive woes continued in the second half. On the Bulldogs’ first possession, the deep snap was high, resulting in a turnover. Hettinger-Scranton recovered two yards from the goal line. Two plays later, Erickson popped in from the one and the Night Hawks led 14-0.
Two snaps later, Yale was intercepted by Erickson, who scampered 36 yards for a touchdown and the Nighthawks led 20-0. Erickson added another 1-yard TD plunge with 3:41 left in the third. He found Kristy for the two-point conversion and the lead swelled to 28-0.
With 11:05 left in the game, Hughes raced 51 yards for the game’s final score.
Hughes finished with 130 yards on eight carries.
Braaten was Bowman County’s leading rusher with 47 yards on four totes.
Both teams are relatively young this year. Burwick pointed out that at one point, he had four freshman on the field.
As Burwick acknowledged the efforts of the Bowman County players, Bulldog head coach Travis Hager did likewise with the Nighthawk players.
“Give credit to Hettinger-Scranton,” he said. “They are a tough opponent, but we knew that. In the first half, we had a lot of things click early for us.
“In the second half, Hettinger-Scranton did a goof job of finding our holes. We have a lot of things to work on this week. I told the players to keep their heads up and to keep improving. We are getting there as a program. It’s not going to happen overnight. I just ask them to keep playing hard.”
Both teams have short weeks and return to action Saturday. The Nighthawks (1-0) travel to Dicksinson to face Center-Stanton at 6 p.m. as part of the 8-team, 4-game 9-man Jamboree. The Bulldogs will have a much longer road trip, traveling to Divide County.
“It is important for us to get off to a fast start,” Burwick said in reference to the season. “On Saturday, we have to be mentally ready from the start.”
Center-Stanton fell to Mott-Regent 36-30 Tuesday night. The Wildfire never trailed in the contest as Jacob Greff led the way with 11 carries for 126 yards and TD runs of nine and 42 yards. Logan Staigle led Center-Stanton with 134 yards rushing and another 60 passing. He scored on an 18-yard run in the third quarter and completed passing scores to Jordan Hoffman and Daniel Henke. Henke also scored on a 1-yard run.
Mott-Regent plays Parshall-White in the first game of the 9-man Jamboree Saturday. Beach knocked off Parshall 28-6 as Anthony Weinreis threw for a score and rushed for another.
Beach faces Central McLean in the 3:30 p.m. game Saturday – also a part of the Jamboree.
Divide County knocked off Trenton-Trinity Christian 46-12 Tuesday as well.
“I’m still excited about the season,” Hager said after the game. “Tonight was a downer, but I’m excited about our chances this year. It would have been nice to get one early out of the gate, but our time will come.”