Bearcats pick off Bulldogs to claim district title: Scottsbluff earns No. 4 playoff seed, first-round home game Friday vs. Aurora
     2014-10-30      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen - Scottsbluff senior Ty Benson (No. 21) seeks an opening, flanked by teammate defenders senior Jackson Hinze (No. 12) and junior Austin Clarkson (No. 55) on Sept. 26 while hosting the Grand Island Northwest Huskies at Bearcat Stadium. The Bearcats are the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, which begin on Friday against Aurora at Scottsbluff. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. 
In sewing up its fourth District B-8 championship in five years, the Scottsbluff football team took care of all its offensive business on the ground and had two interception returns for touchdowns among its forcing six Alliance turnovers in blowing past the host Bulldogs 45-14 Friday night.

The win also clinched the Bearcats fifth Class B playoff appearance in five years, eighth in 10 years and 15th overall since 1983. Scottsbluff will play a familiar foe in Aurora in first-round play Friday at Bearcat Stadium. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

After having a three-year grasp on the district title broken last season by Sidney, the Bearcats (8-1 overall, 3-0 district) clinched its return to the district standings with a balanced rushing attack and forcing four Alliance interceptions and two lost Bulldog fumbles.
While Scottsbluff has not won a playoff game since 2001 – when it made the semifinals after finishing as runner-up the two previous years – Bearcat coach Joe Benson said his team’s district title is one to be relished as one that reflects its hard work all season long.

“If you look at our district – I know Gering and Alliance were down a little bit, but they’re still well-coached, and then Sidney was as good a team as we played – it’s a good accomplishment,” Benson said.
Senior Ty Benson led the Bearcats’ 342-yard, all-rushing offensive attack with 160 yards and two touchdowns on 20 attempts, while junior Brad Johnston followed with 150 yards and two TDs on 17 carries.

Benson got the Bearcats going on their first play from scrimmage, running 53 yards to the end zone. Senior Jackson Hinze kicked the first of his four successful extra points, giving Scottsbluff a quick 7-0 lead.

Hinze then kicked a 37-yard field goal early in the second quarter to extend Scottsbluff’s lead to 10-0.

Alliance climbed back to within a field goal on Brody Brennan’s 5-yard touchdown run. But that was as close as the Bulldogs (2-7, 1-2 district) would get, and Bearcat junior Brad Johnston’s TD runs of 42 and 12 yards gave Scottsbluff a 24-7 halftime lead.

Alliance added a touchdown in the third quarter to cut into the Bearcats’ lead at 24-14.

“We came out of the locker room, apparently thinking we had the game won, and we were really sloppy,” Coach Benson said. “That’s probably the worst we’ve played on offense this year.
“We just play so darned good at times, I guess you just can’t continue to play every play that way, but we need to fix that up.”

But then the Scottsbluff defense turned on the after-burners for a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions returned for touchdowns: a 46-yard pick-six by junior Ben Heggem and a 97-yard return for another TD by sophomore Max Mason. Benson had a 20-yard TD run in between Heggem and Mason’s scores.

Junior Trevor Garcia led all Scottsbluff tacklers with seven solo stops, while senior Levi Shope had six solo tackles and one assist. Heggem added five solo tackles to his pick-six interception. Juniors Traceten Halley and Eseah Ingram had interceptions, while junior Austin Clarkson and senior Christian Miller made fumble recoveries.

Alliance outgained Scottsbluff 362 offensive yards to 342 and had a 22-13 advantage in first downs. But six turnovers will damage an offensive attack in a hurry.

Scottsbluff took a 37-29 win at Aurora on Oct. 3 in the teams’ final game before each entered district play. Both teams entered that game with 4-1 records.

The Huskies (5-4), however, went just 1-2 in district action, edging 3-6 Grand Island Northwest 36-34 at Aurora in between a pair of road losses: 42-20 to No. 8 seed Seward (7-2) and 21-12 to No. 10 seed York (7-2) last week.

Scottsbluff’s only loss was a 24-14 setback to McCook at home on Sept. 12, while Aurora handed the No. 3 seed Bison their only defeat, 20-19 at home on Sept. 26. Scottsbluff scored a 45-40 win over GI Northwest at home on Sept. 26.

Friday’s Scottsbluff-Aurora winner will meet the winner of Friday’s game between No. 5 seed Elkhorn South (7-2) and No. 12 seed Beatrice (6-3). That quarterfinal game will be Nov. 7.

In its win over the Huskies, Scottsbluff outgained the Huskies 429 total yards to 329, including 313 to 132 on the ground.
Benson called the chance to play Aurora again a great opportunity.

“You might as well embrace it because that’s what the state put in front of us and I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “So we’ll just embrace it and play a good ball game on Friday.”

Perhaps the Bearcats’ two scores on interceptions against Alliance will spark improvement in defending Aurora, which had 197 passing yards against Scottsbluff four weeks ago.

“Defensively we need to continue to get better,” Coach Benson said. “On special teams we had a bust on kickoff coverage. Then offensively, we were good, but they ran a couple of stunts that we really need to get cleaned up and get those blocked.”

Eleven Bearcats have recorded takeaways this season, led by Halley’s four interceptions and Ingram’s three pickoffs.
Ty Benson leads the Bearcats in both rushing and receiving, having carried the ball 172 times for 1,215 yards and 12 touchdowns and making eight receptions for 210 yards and three TDs. Senior Tristan Donelson also has eight catches, going for 141 yards with two TDs.
Hinze is responsible for 115 points in his all-purpose successes.

Hinze has 26 of 43 pass completions (60.5 percent) for 566 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception and has 463 rushing yards and eight TDs on 68 carries.

Hinze also has made 8 of 9 field goals, including a longest kick of 52 yards against Aurora, and has nailed 38 of 39 extra-point kick attempts.

“We’ll just continue to get better,” Coach Benson said. “The good thing about this team, from the beginning of this season until now, we’ve made a lot of improvement and we still have a long way to go. We shouldn’t have a hard time getting the attention of our kids.”

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