Strong pass coverage by Longhorns' safety Alex Kreger kept the Central Plains Oilers out of overtime preventing visitors' from following through on their explosive late-game comeback attempt during the regional championship Saturday night.
A strong ground offensive and a few key defensive plays led the undefeated Longhorns to the state quarterfinals, where they will play Hoxie High School (10-1) at home in Jetmore on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m.
The Oilers set the stage for a shootout by scoring over the air on their first down. The Longhorns and running back Robbie Carter returned the favor by claiming consistent first downs on the ground.
The Longhorns stopped the Oilers for the first time, assisted by a fourth-and-4 holding penalty against the visitors. The Longhorns and Carter came back with another score, but fumbled on the extra points, closing the first quarter at 14-8.
Once the defenses woke up an 8 yard sack of Oilers' QB Braedan Crites by Longhorns lineman David Nuss put a stop to Central Plains' next drive. Central Plains responded by holding Hodgeman to inches on a fourth down attempt, giving the Oilers the ball in Longhorn territory, setting the up to tie the game.
RB Kolt Washburn ran another in with seconds left in the half, setting the Longhorns up to run away from the Oilers with 24 unanswered points along with two touchdowns by Kreger, leaving the Oilers with 16:33 to come back.
Within two and a half minutes the Oilers hit a short pass for a touchdown plus two for the conversion. Three minutes later it was the Oilers' ball again, who drove 53 yards for the touchdown, missing the conversion, and putting them within 10.
Another unproductive possession by the home team set the Oilers up to bring the game within 4, but a fumble recovered by the Longhorns in Oilers territory put an anchor on the comeback attempt. Another score from Washburn and two points put Hodgeman County two scores and conversions in the lead.
The Oilers scored on a pass to WR Layne Bieberle with 3:50 left on the clock. The Longhorns ran down the clock on the ground but was unable to extend their possession on a 4-12 incomplete pass, giving the Oilers 31.1 seconds to produce 52 yards and a two-pointer to tie the game.
Those eight points never came for the Oilers as Kreger deflected an end zone missile, putting Hodgeman County one step closer to the state championship.