Bearcats' stellar season hits wall in playoffs
     2012-11-01      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen Scottsbluff's Luke Worden (No. 34) intercepts the ball from York's Parker Johnson (No. 37) during Friday’s playoff game at Bearcat Stadium. The Bearcats ended their undefeated record and their season with a loss, 28-9. 
York's speed, defense ends Scottsbluff's unbeaten run, 28-9

SCOTTSBLUFF — After outscoring its nine regular-season opponents by nearly a 3-to-1 ratio and scoring a perfect 9-0 record, all that went right for the Scottsbluff football team those first nine Friday nights went awry once the Bearcats were awarded the No. 1 seed in the Class B state playoffs.

Scottsbluff more than met its match in a York team that obviously believed its 5-4 regular-season record was history, and that the Dukes had the same clean record entering the first-round playoff game Friday at Bearcat Stadium as Scottsbluff.

York ‘s rushing tandem of Eric Buller and Evan Neville led the Dukes’ 251-yard ground attack, and their defense held the Bearcats to a mere 82 rushing yards in scoring a 28-9 victory that ended Scottsbluff’s stellar undefeated season and proved why the games are played on the field and not on paper.

The best outcome from the game for Scottsbluff faithful was that senior Matt Klein, who suffered a helmet-to-helmet blow in the third quarter with a bulling Neville, did not suffer any serious injury and was back at school Monday.

“You are just concerned for the young man and just hope he is OK,” Scottsbluff coach Joe Benson said of Klein, who was taken to the hospital for precautionary measures. “There are a lot more important things than football in this life. We’re glad everything turned out all right. It’s a lot better than the football game.”

Scottsbluff used 19 plays off the opening kickoff to drive as close as the York 10-yard line, but the Bearcats had two major penalties that forced them to punt.

“If we could have scored on the first drive, I think that would have made a big difference,” said Benson, who then watched Dukes quarterback Linden Kaliff link up with Buller on an 82-yard touchdown for the game’s first score.

“We had a hard time adjusting to because we were so zoned in on stopping the run. They had one pass play that hurt us two or three times. They just executed really well, put in a couple little wrinkles and played really good football.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but it would have given us a little more confidence and it would have fun to have seen what would have happened from there.”

The Dukes’ denial thus left Scottsbluff — which had its most successful scoring quarter during the regular season in the first period, with 113 points, a 12.6 point average — scoreless in the first 12 minutes.

Not much fun happened afterward for the Bearcats. In the second quarter, Scottsbluff again drove deep into York territory thanks to three straight pass completions by senior Eric Moreno. But the drive stalled, and Bearcat senior Randy Wentz kicked a 31-yard field goal that cut the Dukes’ early lead to 7-3.

Late in the first half, Buller cut loose for an 89-yard touchdown run to put York ahead 14-3 at halftime.

“I don’t think we played really well, and the other thing that was a little bit disconcerting is that they kind of put a hat (helmet) on our hat every play and we just didn’t react very well,” Benson said.
What the Bearcats did well was throw the ball. Moreno completed 12 of 24 passes for with one touchdown, a 44-yard completion to senior Taylor Winkler in the fourth quarter. The score, followed by an incomplete 2-point conversion, only got Scottsbluff to within 21-9, however.

After a scoreless third period, the Dukes had struck on Neville’s 12-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for a 21-3 lead.
Following Winkler’s TD reception, York finished its stunning rout with Kaliff’s 1-yard TD run in the final two minutes.

“I think in retrospect, they were probably the best team we played,” said Benson, whose team owned regular-season wins over three Class B playoff teams: No. 6 seeded Aurora (which defeated No. 11 Grand Island Northwest, another Bearcat victim) and No. 7 McCook, which lost to No. 10 Norris.

“We knew they were good, but I think their overall team speed surprised me a little bit,” Benson said of the Dukes, whose regular-season results included a win at Northwest and losses to Aurora, Norris and No. 3 seeded and 10-0 Beatrice.

“They were a little bit better up front defensively than we thought we were, and they had one little wrinkle on offense that hurt us,” Benson added of the Dukes, who with the win get to play host Friday in quarterfinal action to Elkhorn (7-3), a 27-20 first-round victor over Blair (5-5).

Klein, who had averaged 140.5 rushing yards per game during the regular season, gained just 50 yards on 22 carries and had one reception for 6 yards before his game-ending injury. Senior Luke Worden added 16 yards on seven carries and a team-high six receptions for 68 yards.

Winkler led the Bearcats in receiving yardage with 92 on three catches, including his 44-yard TD. Junior Blake Wills had two catches for 24 yards and senior Tim Magdaleno made two receptions for 21 yards.

Defensively for Scottsbluff, junior Bo Lofink had a team-high 13 tackles (eight solo), while senior Jon Maag had 10 stops (seven solo) with one for 3 lost yards and Magdaleno had eight tackles (six solo) with two stops for 11 lost yards. Worden had an interception for the Bearcats.

The loss aside, Benson said the Bearcats have plenty of which to be proud the past three seasons: three straight District B-6 titles and a cumulative regular-season record of 23-4.

“I didn’t know if it was possible that we would be undefeated in the regular season,” Benson said. “I guess you always hope you can win every game, but that’s pretty darn hard to do. We were extremely to be 9-0, but no, I wouldn’t have expected to be 9-0.

“These kids should be proud of that. These three classes did a tremendous job, accomplishing the feat of winning three district titles, that’s hard to do. We’ll see if we can go for No. 4 next year.”

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