Gering fends off Lexington for Rhodes' first victory
     2011-09-01      By Terry Gaston   
Nobody ever promised Gering head football coach Jimmie Rhodes that his first win would come easily.

After recovering from two deficits last Friday night to home-standing Lexington and overcoming two ensuing kickoffs returned for touchdowns nullified by penalties, however, the Bulldogs scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a 33-20 victory over the Minutemen in the teams' season opener.

It was good to see them overcome a little adversity," said Rhodes, making his head-coaching debut after seven years as a Gering assistant coach. "Then to have (Avery) Petit close out the game with a big pick-6 was awesome."

Petit, a senior linebacker, scored on a 37-yard interception return with 3:58 left in the game, just 17 seconds after the Bulldogs erased their second deficit. For the game, Petit had six solo and eight assisted tackles, with three tackles for lost yardage.

Just before Petit's interception return, sophomore quarterback Dillon DeMott scored on a 1-yard run and then completed a 2-point PAT pass to senior Zach Smith to put Gering ahead 27-20 with 4:15 left.

Lexington had score early in the third quarter to turn Gering's 19-13 lead into a 20-19 advantage for the Minutemen. Senior Danny O'Boyle returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for an apparent Bulldog touchdown, but the play was called back on a block-to-the-back penalty that Rhodes said was questionable, and Lexington's lead stood until the late fourth quarter.

Zac Bibb had one interception to turn back the Minutemen in the second half, with Rhodes making note of a better Bulldog defensive effort against pass-happy Lexington.

"It's tough to defend when they throw the ball 60 times, you have to be on top of your game," he said. "Our coached did a great job of rotating in kids and keeping them fresh."

The game began inauspiciously for the Bulldogs when Lexington scored on a 97-yard run, and then Gering had an 80-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Smith nullified by a holding penalty.

Other than the two 10-yard penalties on the nullified kickoff returns, the Bulldogs were flagged for 20 other yards -- physical and mental errors Rhodes said can be fixed in preparation for Gering's home opener Friday night against Holdrege.

The Bulldogs erupted for three second-quarter scores to take a 19-7 lead. Senior Mark Pieper scored on a 4-yard run just 13 seconds into the period, with sophomore Gage Smith's point-after kick good to tie the score at 7-all.

Pieper, who rushed for 116 yards on 18 carries, scored on a 3-yard run with 5:58 left in the first half to put Gering ahead 13-7. After the Bulldog defense held Lexington to three downs and forced a punt, DeMott found senior Dillon Wademan open for a 46-yard touchdown pass play, giving Gering a 19-7 lead.

The Minutemen clipped the Bulldogs' halftime advantage back to 19-13 with a touchdown with 32 seconds left but denied Lexington the extra point when Zach Smith blocked the kick.

"They just hit us with a couple of big screens and had momentum on their side," Rhodes said of Lexington's late-half score. "We continued to play with the lead and there were not a lot of penalties in the first half. Mark had a good day rushing."

The Bulldogs amassed 129 rushing yards on 34 carries, while DeMott was 11-for-17 for 184 yards and had one passing and one rushing touchdown apiece.

"All that matters is that we got out of there with a 'W,' and we'll take a one-point or 20-point win," Rhodes said.

Holdrege will enter Friday's 6 p.m. game on the heels of a 28-7 victory over York.

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