Final Point: Bearcat juniors bring class, talent to the gridiron
     2011-09-15      By Terry Gaston   
Bearcat juniors bring class, talent to the gridiron
Scottsbluff juniors Michael Hadden, Matt Klein and Luke Worden all turned in performances Friday night that deserved to be applauded as they exited the Bearcat Stadium field.

To their misfortune, all three received ovations while they were assisted off the field because of various injuries.

Thanks to their efforts, that junior trio and other Bearcat starters were able to rest after building a 27-0 halftime lead over Lexington that eventually led to a 30-6 victory.

All three players scored a touchdown apiece, and Worden said the team element in succeeding on the field is essential, especially for this tight-knit group of juniors that Hadden added has “been best friends and played together since the second or third grade.”

“Nobody wants all the glory,” said Worden, who led the Bearcats’ 221-yard rushing attack with 97 yards on 17 carries. “We think of ourselves as a group of guys who just want to get into the end zone.”
Into the end zone Worden went from 3 yards out late in the first quarter for a 13-0 Bearcat lead, one play right after senior quarterback Grant Lacey teamed with Hadden for a 34-yard gain.

Klein had begun the game by finding plenty of teammates to block for him on the opening kickoff and ran 45 yards to the Scottsbluff 49-yard line. Seven plays later, Lacey found Klein open for a 23-yard touchdown pass to give SHS a quick 7-0 lead.

“Special teams are a big part in our practices and can be a big momentum-builder,” Klein said.

Klein had three first-quarter punt returns, the last a 36-yarder that brought the Bearcats back to the Lexington 27. Senior Seth Rohrer scored four plays later to give Scottsbluff a 20-0 lead early in the second period.

Klein’s shortest of the three punt returns was dramatic nevertheless, after he decided to chase down the punt and shortened an already 54-yard punt with a 9-yard return to the Bearcat 28.
“I saw I had a little seam and I just wanted to make a big play and get the momentum going,” Klein said of the play.

On Lexington’s ensuing drive, the Minutemen drove to the Scottsbluff 20 but Hadden made an end-zone interception.

Klein saw his evening ended on the next series, however, when he said he felt a tweak in his knee after he took the snap out of the Wildcat formation. He tried coming back a few plays later but was unable to continue.

Midway through the third quarter, after Randy Wentz — another Bearcat junior — scored Scottsbluff’s final points on his 29-yard field goal, Hadden and Worden saw their evening’s action cut short.
Hadden jumped up for a high pass but missed and was flipped upside down, landing on his shoulder. When he reached the bench for initial treatment, he was met by Klein, who had shed his shoulder pads in the halftime locker room.

Worden also set up Scottsbluff’s final touchdown with an interception at the Bearcat 12-yard line.

Worden gained 25 yards on three rushes before Klein was hurt at the Scottsbluff 38. Lacey rolled left to see a wide-open Worden at the Lexington 30, but Worden lost his handle on the ball and a sure big gain if not a touchdown.

Rather than fret over his missed opportunity, Worden made the best of his next touch — on the next play, a 25-yard gain to the Minutemen 37.

“That is all part of also playing DB,” Worden said of his ability to shake such adversity so quickly. “You just have to get back up and play one play at a time.”

Lacey then found Hadden open at the 20 on the next play, and Hadden ran to the end zone to complete the 37-yard score and give the Bearcats a 27-0 lead with 3:55 still left in the first half.

“We had the running game going early, and I just got the opportunity and Grant threw it to me,” said Hadden, who gained 71 yards by catching two of Lacey’s six completions.

Worden and senior Joe Moran shared deep-man duties on the Bearcats’ punt return after Klein left the game. And after Lexington went three plays and out, Worden took in the punt reception and gained 6 yards before he went down.

“I had gotten kicked in the hamstring, but I think it’s just a bruise,” Worden said.

Worden said his sister Aubree — a three-time All-Class state champion in cross country and the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs in track who is a freshman at Florida State University — was a great example and influence in his drive for success in and out of the competition arena.

“The biggest thing was her work ethic, the ability to balance school and sports and how to live off and on the court or field,” Worden said.

Klein concurred — “I think it is very important that we are together on and off the field” — and the juniors’ tight bond is more than evident to Scottsbluff football coach Joe Benson.

“This class is really talented and are really tremendous character kids,” Benson said. “I don’t think I’ve been around a better bunch of character kids.”

Here’s hoping that all three of these individuals will be back on the field soon, perhaps even Friday night at Holdrege, thus giving Bearcat and other area sports fans even more excitement and pride through their work and character ethics.

Long may she wave
Even before Klein and his kickoff return mates electrified the Scottsbluff crowd on the game’s opening play, I think more than a few members of the crowd at Bearcat Stadium may have been electrified by the team of Mother Nature, Old Glory and the Scottsbluff Marching Band. At least I hope I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist tragedy was not formally observed during the pregame events. However, when we all stood at attention for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the twilight was gleaming through the flag, which was unfurled just enough by a south breeze to really shine.

About five minutes later, the breeze had calmed and the flag was wrapped around the pole for most of the rest of the night.

Perfect timing indeed. Maybe it was Old Glory telling us all, in her own way — through all we have endured the past 10 years, through the 3,000 lives lost on that Tuesday morning to the 7,000 service men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect us from another such incident — that our flag is still there.

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