Gering stays unbeaten after 6-3 victory Smith’s 2 field goals, 2 interceptions enough to stop Chadron
     2012-09-07      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Philip Eckerberg/for the Citizen Gering senior James Guzman (No. 32) is about to break through a gap while Bulldog defenders clockwise from left: senior Jake Rexus (No. 2), sophomore Brett Doughty (No. 59), senior Austin Ferguson (No. 36) junior Dylan Wetherington (No. 52) and senior Bret Orozco (No. 55) stave off multiple threats during Friday night’s home action against Chadron. The Bulldogs remain undeafeated after the 6-3 victory over Chadron.  
By Terry Gaston
Special to the Citizen
Gage Smith started making his mark for the Gering varsity football team as a sophomore last season by kicking extra points and field goals.
Smith added his punting and rushing talents into his repertoire this season, and those elements have paid off in the Bulldogs’ 2-0 start.
But perhaps Smith’s defensive abilities played the biggest role Friday night. While Smith accounted for all of Gering’s scoring in its 6-3, home-opening win over Chadron, his two interceptions of Chadron junior quarterback T.D. Stein helped preserve the Bulldogs’ victory in the delicate margin.
“We had two really strong special teams, so it was going to be a close game no matter what,” said Smith, whose 34-yard field goal with 2:23 left in the first half and his 35-yard boot with 8:07 left in the third quarter gave Gering a 6-0 lead.
In the first quarter, Smith had his first punt blocked — although he had the chance to grab the loose ball and run to get a short gain before the Cardinals regained possession. On his next punt, Smith rode a tailwind to a 72-yard kick, pinning Chadron at its own 16-yard line.
“He’s a good player, he practices his tail off, he watches film, he’s coached hard and he expects to win,” second-year Gering head coach Jimmie Rhodes said of Smith. “That’s why we have him punting, we have him kicking, he’s a good player and we expect him to do those things.”
Before his long punt, Smith made the first of his interceptions — both of which were deep in Gering territory and denied Chadron scoring opportunities after gaining big yards.
Smith’s first pick came two plays after Cardinals Jackson Dickerson returned an interception of Bulldog junior Dillon DeMott 41 yards to the Gering 9.
Chadron (0-2), whose losses have been to District B-6 teams Alliance (27-20) and Gering, got a 30-yard field goal from senior Matt Lordino with 5:27 left in the third quarter.
That score might be considered a consolation for the Cardinals, after Stein hit Dickerson on a swing pass and Dickerson ran 73 yards to the Gering 13. Senior Austin Ferguson tracked down Dickerson on the play to prevent what had looked like a free route to the end zone.
“It was a great game for us because we got to show how well of a defense we have,” Smith said. “Our offense kind of struggled, but we were able to take enough time off the board to help our defense stop them from scoring at the end of the game.”
The Cardinals drove to the Gering 15 late in the third quarter before Smith snuffed out another Stein pass at the 6-yard line and returned the interception 18 yards.
Lordino, who had a 61-yard punt with the wind in the second quarter, missed two field goals, the last one a 44-yarder with 3:53 remaining.
Still, the Cardinals got one more offensive chance, but Stein was picked at the Gering 3 by Bulldogs senior Walker Britsch.
“We’re just a lockdown defense,” Smith said. “We try as hard as we can every play, and we condition as hard as we can too. He’s a great quarterback, but we just worked hard as we could to figure out how he plays.”
While the Bulldogs were outgained 271 yards to 189, Rhodes said Gering’s strategy of pounding Chadron on the ground ultimately made the difference and helped to negate Stein’s 271-yard passing effort — which, of course, was negated by the three interceptions.
“We knew our ground game was going to come and it didn’t miss a beat,“ said Rhodes, who got 56 yards on five carries from senior Jake Rexus and 40 on 14 carries from senior James Guzman. “We grinded it out with Smith (15 yards), Guz, (senior Nick) Chitwood (8 yards), DeMott (25 yards). It was fun up front just watching those kids dig it out.”
DeMott was intercepted three times as well and completed just four passes on 12 attempts for 45 yards. Britsch had two catches for 28 yards.
“I don’t care if it’s an ugly win, it’s better than a pretty loss,” Rhodes said. “We stuck to the ground game, and that was my plan, to just come down and grind them out and fatigue them, roll them up and we kept moving the football, and it was fun.“
The Bulldogs hit the road Friday to play Lexington, which has played much better in its first two games than the Minutemen’s 0-2 record may indicate. After coming west to open the season against Scottsbluff, a 26-0 Bearcats victory, Lexington took a 20-13 loss Friday at York.
“They’re a good football team,“ Rhodes said of the Minutemen, who will be looking for success in their home opener. “We have to catch the football, and that is the difference between this year’s team and last year’s team, and we’re going to get it fixed.”
tsbluff 17, McCook 7

The Bearcats, who have played competitively against McCook the past few years but were unable to get past the Bison, struck early for two quick touchdowns, added a second-quarter field goal and only let McCook score in the final minutes to break an 11-year drought in Red Willow County.
“We got off to a great start and I think that left McCook shaken a bit, and then we played tremendous defense and the kids showed great character in winning,” Scottsbluff coach Joe Benson said.
Offensively, the Bearcats scored quickly on senior Matt T. Klein’s 24-yard pass to senior Randy Wentz out of the Wildcat formation just 2:57 into the game. After shutting down McCook on its next series, senior Luke Worden scored on a 2-yard rush.
Wentz added a 45-yard field goal in the second quarter, and Scottsbluff’s 269 yards of offense was enough to score the victory. The Bearcats held the Bison to 168 total yards, another solid effort after they allowed Lexington just 165 yards in their 26-0, season-opening shutout victory.
“I thought both sides of the ball were very precise,” Benson said. “If we are not precise against McCook, we don’t win. They don’t have quite the speed they usually have, but they are still very physical.”
Klein finished with 155 rushing yards on 24 carries and his 24-yard TD pass, while senior quarterback Eric Moreno had four complete passes for 61 yards. Wentz made three receptions for 43 yards.
Seniors Jon Maag and Matt D. Klein had fumble recoveries on defense for Scottsbluff.
The Bearcats return home Friday to play Holdrege, which rebounded from its 40-20, season-opening loss to Gering by scoring a 24-18 win at Sidney.
“They appear to be a good football team,” Benson said of the Dusters. “They played a great game against Sidney, and I think they will keep our hands full.”

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