After trailing 32-8 at halftime against the Hanover Wildcats, the Hodgeman County Longhorns fought back to nearly tie the score in Saturday afternoon’s 8-Man Division II State Championship game.
Ultimately, however, the Longhorns fell just short, losing to Hanover 54-48.
It was Hanover’s second straight State title. Hodgeman County finished the season 10-3 overall, while Hanover moved to a combined 25-0 over the last two seasons.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 16-0 lead to end the first quarter, a lead they achieved despite getting in their own way at times. For example, the Wildcats appeared to score a touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter, but holding was called on the offense to negate the score. On the very next play, however, Hanover’s Daiken Stallbaumber scrambled, broke a couple of tackles and got into the end zone anyway. The 2-point conversion attempt succeeded to make the score 8-0 Hanover at that point.
Short passes accounted for two Hanover touchdowns in the first half.
In the second half, the Longhorns started to mount a comeback, something Longhorns head coach Matt Housman said he thought the team had in it, even though coaches never count on such things happening until they actually do.
“Every break went their way in the first half,” Housman said. “Every loose ball they got, calls, things like that, it just went their way. I told (the Longhorns) eventually it was gonna go our way.”
He said he also told his team that when things started to go their way, they needed to be ready, and they were.
The rally started on the first drive of the second half, which belonged to the Longhorns after they had kicked the ball off to start the game.
Early on the drive, Hodgeman senior Jacob Salmans broke free on the ground, cut back across the field and outraced everyone along the Hanover sideline to cut the Hanover lead to 32-14.
Hanover responded with a touchdown of their own to make the score 40-14, then scored again to make it 48-14.
Then, however, Hodgeman County started to eat away at the lead, starting with a long pass play for a touchdown to cut the lead to 48-22 at the end of the third quarter.
Housman said he had changed the team’s strategy a little to help give his offense some life in the second half after falling behind a bit early by trying to run the ball.
“We just kind of had to go spread and throw it and make some plays like that,” Housman said. “We just kind of hit em with the run-game every now and then, but it was basically Jacob (Salmans) scrambling.”
After the teams exchanged touchdowns in the fourth quarter to bring the score to 54-30, a long pass from Salmans to Aaron Sherrill for a touchdown made the score 54-36. The Longhorns then recovered an onside kick, and scored again to make the score 54-42.
On the next offensive drive for the Wildcats, the Longhorns defense forced and recovered a fumble, but on the subsequent offensive drive the Longhorns fumbled the ball back into Wildcats’ hands.
Hodgeman scored another touchdown with 11 seconds in the game left to make the score 54-48 but were unable to recover their final attempted onside kick which might have given them a chance to win the game.