Fans had something to cheer about at the Dodge City Community College game against Highland Community College on Oct. 26. The defense was stubborn and the offense found its rhythm in the fourth quarter to give the Conqs a chance to win a game.

The Conqs were tantalizingly close to a victory but a late penalty took points off the board and they came up short in a 26-23 double-overtime loss to the Scotties.

"Unfortunately, it didn't come out like we wanted," said DCCC Head Coach Ricky Coon. "It was a fantastic defensive effort. They couldn't run the ball on us. We controlled the line of scrimmage."

After suffering an 85-3 loss to the No. 4 Hutchinson Blue Dragons the week before, the turnaround in one week was what Coon had been working for all season. The Conqs were on the brink of beating the only team that beat the Dragons just two weeks before but came up short after a made field goal in double overtime was nullified by a penalty and the second kick was wide to the right.

The game against the Scotties did not start well. The Conqs had a penalty on the opening kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage, they fumbled the ball and Highland recovered deep in Dodge territory. But the Conq defense stood firm and the Scotties had to settle for a field goal with just a minute and four seconds gone in the first quarter.

The Conqs were able to move the ball but had a turnover on downs following a sack. The defense held again but on the Conqs next possession, Highland got an interception and ran it back for an 88 yard touchdown.

Highland had run just six plays and had scored 10 points.

Another interception gave Highland the ball again but the Conq defense stood strong and held the Scotties to a field goal again. The first quarter ended with Dodge 0, Highland 13.

The Conqs offense started the second quarter with a long drive with five first downs culminating in a Darius James 8 yard touchdown making it Dodge 7, Highland 13 with 11:06 left in the second quarter. This brought a spark of optimism that the Conqs could win. The defense again got tough and neither team scored and went to halftime with the same score, Dodge 7, Highland 13.

Defense continued to dominate in the third quarter with neither team scoring and it was Dodge 7, Highland 13 going into the fourth.

Coon changed quarterbacks to start the fourth and put Jase Orndorff on the field to help spark the offense to action. With just 6 seconds gone in the fourth, the Conqs scored a field goal making it Dodge 10, Highland 13.

Then, it was a back and forth defensive battle until the Scotties scored on a 9-yard touchdown pass making it Dodge 10, Highland 20 with 7:44 to go.

Dodge countered with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Da'Quan Bailey-Brown but the PAT missed and it was Dodge 16, Highland 20 at 6:31 to go. That missed extra point proved to be a crucial play.

After trading possessions, Bailey-Brown had a 39 yard pass reception that reached the 1 yard line then a touchdown gave the Conqs a 23-20 lead with just 1:41 left in regulation.

But Highland would not be denied and scored a field goal at 0:31 for a tie at 23-23 at the end of regulation. In the first overtime, Dodge turned the ball over on downs and the Scotties missed a field goal attempt.

In the second overtime, the Conqs defense held Highland to a field goal. Dodge then made a field goal but a penalty nullified it and the second attempt was wide right for final score of DCCC 23 and HCC 26.

The defense kept the Conqs in the game even with 6 turnovers and just 7 points going into the fourth quarter. Coon said he was proud of his men and they made it hard to score in the red zone.

After a season of struggle and working hard to improve, it was a game he felt the team could win.

"I told them before the game, they deserved to win a game," Coon said. "They were so close. I'm just hurting for them."

When he put Orndorff in the game, he seemed to be getting the job done. The offense was scoring and the defense was keeping the Scotties in check but a penalty was costly for the team and took the tying points off the board at the end.

"We wanted to take it to a third overtime but a small error cost us points," Coon said.

There were a lot of penalties in the game for both teams and as the Conqs prepare for Fort Scott after a bye week, they have to address the basics. The team has to do a better job of fundamentals.

"We have to work on taking care of the ball. We have to continue to work on that. We still have to play better in all phases," Coon said. "And we have to address our penalties. Our margin of error is so small, we have to teach them how to handle their emotions. We had a kid come off the bench without a helmet. We have to educate them to be more disciplined."

But the team has shown improvement. To come back after losing to Hutch 85-3, the team motto for the Highland game was "Don't Flinch" and the defense stood up to the challenge.

It's the details that win games and Coon is going to stress that as they prepare for Fort Scott and that elusive victory.

"If you win enough moments, you win the game," Coon said.

To contact writer email grose@pratttribune.com