Bearcats drive past Red Raiders in District B-8 opener: Scottsbluff will take 6-1 record, co-district lead into Friday’s Twin Cities battle against Gering
     2014-10-16      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen - Bearcat Ty Benson (No. 21) sets his sight on an opening as teammate Austin Clarkson (No. 55) provides cover during a Sept. 25 game at Bearcat Stadium. The Bearcats brought home a 37-29 win on the road against Sidney last Friday. 
SIDNEY – In a battle of football teams that finished their pre-district schedules with only one loss, each to McCook, rushing-based Scottsbluff and Sidney with its more balanced offensive attack proved Friday night that they are still the leaders of the District B-8 pack.

Sidney outgained Scottsbluff 425 total offensive yards to 420, but the visiting Bearcats turned in what Scottsbluff coach Joe Benson said was their “most complete game of the year” in taking a 37-29 victory in the teams’ district opener.

“I thought we put all three phases together,” Benson said Monday. “Defensively, we’re getting better. I think the last three weeks we’ve taken small steps. We need to continue to progress if we want to advance as far as we think we can advance.”
With the win, Scottsbluff (6-1 overall, 1-0 district) took what is expected to be the driver’s seat toward winning its fourth district title in five years. The Bearcats also avenged the loss to Sidney that led to the Red Raiders’ district championship and first playoff berth since 1994.

Still, Alliance enters Friday night’s Gold Rush Highway home matchup against Sidney as the co-leader in district play after their 39-21 win over Gering, but the Bulldogs (2-5 overall) likely will be an underdog to the Red Raiders (5-2 overall).

Gering (0-7, 0-1 district) visits Scottsbluff at Bearcat Stadium Friday night at 7. The Bearcats then close out the regular season by visiting Alliance on Oct. 24.

Benson said while the Bearcats will face a winless Gering team Friday night, he expected nothing less than his players’ best efforts this week in practice and in the Twin Cities Rivalry.
“We don’t talk about one opponent any more than another,” Benson said. “We just continue on, it’s another week, we’ll try to get focused and try to win another one.”

Benson also praised the Gering and Scottsbluff DECA organizations for joining forces in selling T-shirts to support Kelli Larson, a Gering fourth-grade teacher who recently had a cancerous brain tumor removed. Larson’s husband, Chad, is a teacher at Bluffs Middle School and the Bearcat girls’ head soccer coach.

“There are a lot bigger things in life than a football game, and that’s one of them,” Benson said. “It will be a neat experience.”
In beating Sidney, Scottsbluff led 31-28 in the fourth quarter after the Red Raiders scored early in the period on Lane Harvey’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Wintholz and 2-point conversion pass from Harvey to Jake Heeren.

The Bearcats put the game away with an 18-play, 71-yard drive in the fourth quarter that junior Brad Johnston capped with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Benson said the Bearcats were “very resilient on our last drive. We had an eight-or nine-minute drive, and we had to convert on fourth down twice and I think we had a couple of third-and-longs, so it was very impressive.”

Heeren led all rushers with 207 yards on 18 carries, but Scottsbluff held a 357-258 advantage in rushing yards thanks to junior Brad Johnston’s team-leading 161 yards on 26 rushes.
Senior quarterback Jackson Hinze followed Johnston with 102 yards on 12 carries, and senior Ty Benson added 86 yards on 21 rushes.
“I thought Brad obviously had a great game, and Trevor Garcia really grew up; that’s the best Trevor has played,” Coach Benson said of the junior, who had two kickoff returns for 63 yards. “Our offensive line continues to shine.”

The Bearcats overcame an early 8-7 deficit to take a 21-14 halftime lead. Johnston had TD runs of 10 and 4 yards, and Benson had the tie-breaking 4-yard scoring run in the second quarter.

Scottsbluff had its biggest lead at 31-14 following Hinze’s 43-yard touchdown pass to senior Matthew Mickey and Hinze’s 36-yard field goal in the third quarter.

The Red Raiders then scored two unanswered touchdowns, the first on Michael Muggli’s 11-yard run late in the third quarter, and Harvey’s TD toss to Heeren that pulled Sidney to within three of the Bearcats.

“We knew Sidney wasn’t going to go away,” Coach Benson said. “They’ve played great against all six of their opponents previous to us, so we knew we were in for a dogfight. We knew they were going to make a run and they did. We just ended up having a couple more plays than they did in the very end.”

Defensively for Scottsbluff, senior Tristan Donelson had a team-high six solo tackles and eight overall, while junior Traceten Halley and classmate Eseah Ingram had five solo stops apiece. Ingram also had in interception, and senior Sabian Harsh’s fumble recovery set up Hinze’s third-quarter field goal.

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