Bulldogs give physical Patriots tough battle
     2011-09-29      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Spectrum Photo: Gering junior James Guzman eyes his way to a big gain against Adams Central Friday night at Memorial Stadium. Guzman had 128 rushing yards but the Bulldogs fell short 23-20 to the Patriots. 
In the middle of a stretch in which it is playing three of Class B’s traditional football stalwarts on as many Fridays, Gering is proving itself a worthy foe.

Although the Bulldogs have dropped two games to those powerhouses, including 23-20 Friday night to Adams Central at Memorial Stadium, Gering coach Jimmie Rhodes sees a competitive fire in his players’ eyes that has him thinking big things are on the way.

“It’s exciting to watch these kids play hard, they fought and fought and it was a dogfight,” said Gering coach Jimmie Rhodes, whose team (3-2) rebounded from a 24-0 loss to McCook to play a solid first half against the Patriots from Hastings. “We hung in there as long as we could.”

That fire rose from the ashes of a 10-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, when Gering turned senior Dillon Wademan’s interception into a six-play scoring drive, capped by Wademan’s 10-yard reception from sophomore quarterback Dillon DeMott with 5:55 remaining.

After the Bulldog defense caught its second wind by holding Adams Central to three plays and out and drawing a 22-yard punt, the Bulldogs were back on the attack, starting at the Patriots’ 49-yard line with 4:58 remaining.

“Momentum makes a big difference,” said Rhodes, whose team was on the other end of Adams Central’s 23-point momentum swing in the third quarter and 25 seconds into the fourth period. “When you move the football, you just have to get it back. They had the bad punt and we went right at it.”

The Bulldogs drove down to the 17-yard line, but on third down DeMott was sacked for a 9-yard loss. On fourth-and-19 and out of field-goal range, DeMott had triple receivers to his left, ran to his right and found a diving junior Walker Britsch in the end zone — but his off-balance pass was just above Britsch’s reach, leaving Central to run out the clock.

“You can’t fault our guys for trying to make plays,” Rhodes said. “We’re going to work on that, and Britsch just didn’t quite get there.”

“They are a physical team and they just grinded us out,” Rhodes said of the Patriots, who outgained the Bulldogs 289 yards to 177 on the ground while Gering had a 162-122 advantage in passing yardage. “What a great football team we played. They did a lot of things perfect.”

The Bulldogs kept Central off the scoreboard for the first half by stopping the Patriots (3-2) twice on the goal line and knocking the ball loose from junior tailback Jake Fowler and having Bulldog senior Zach Smith recover the ball at the Gering 11-yard line.

And the Bulldog defense thus ignited the Gering offense which, until the final two plays of the first quarter, had gained just 36 yards. Then, after Rhodes called timeout with 20 seconds left in the period, DeMott completed a 16-yard pass to senior Danny O’Boyle and junior James Guzman broke loose for 33 yards to the Patriot 31 as the quarter expired.

Gering’s offense bogged down after three plays that included a sack, but in getting the ball back with 5:49 left in the first half and in spite of starting at their own 13-yard line because of a holding penalty, the Bulldogs were ready to attack and break the scoreless deadlock.

Guzman ran the ball six straight plays for 46 yards, then DeMott’s 13-yard completion to Wademan and 17-yard toss to O’Boyle on fourth-and-12 put Gering at the Central 13.

After Guzman – who finished the first half with 108 yards on 12 carries – gained 7 more yards before DeMott connected with a wide-open Wademan on the left side for a 6-yard touchdown with 41 seconds remaining in the half. Sophomore Gage Smith’s extra-point kick gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 halftime lead.

“We got back to running the football,” said Rhodes, whose team had been looking for a spark on the ground with senior Mark Pieper sidelined for a second game with a knee injury.

Central momentarily abandoned its dominant triple-stack rushing attack on its second possession of the second half, with senior quarterback Kyle Goldenstein completing a 32-yard pass junior tight end Jesse Ackerman, who beat the Gering secondary for a 32-yard gain to the Bulldog 2.

After Gering had stopped Fowler twice at the goal line and forcing the fumble at the 10 in the first half, the feisty Patriot tailback finally found pay dirt on a cutting dive play with 7:47 left. An encroachment penalty on the Bulldogs made Central rethink its extra-point try, and the offense returned and Fowler scored to put the Pats ahead 8-7.

Not to be discouraged, Gering drove 73 yards on 10 plays, with O’Boyle running a sweep on a fake punt 31 yards to the Central 9. Two plays later, O’Boyle rand right and hit the end zone to give the Bulldogs back the lead at 13-8 with 4:34 left in the third. Gering’s 2-point pass attempt was no good.

The Patriots completed one 15-yard pass from Goldenstein to Fowler on third down, marking the first of four straight first-down plays for Central. Senior Kyle Cuddeford rumbled in for a 5-yard score with 2:08 left in the third, and Fowler’s 2-point run put the Pats ahead 16-13.

In the third quarter alone, Central made eight plays of 10 yards or more and three more in the fourth period.

Fowler finished the seesaw battle between him and Guzman as the game’s leading rusher with 177 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns plus the 2-point conversion run. He also was the Patriots’ to receiver with 56 yards on four catches.

Guzman, who had the halftime lead in the rushing battle, had just 20 more yards in the second half for 128 yards on 21 carries. DeMott was 16-for-26 for 162 yards, with seven completions to Wademan for 61 yards and two touchdowns, five to O’Boyle for 66 yards and four to Zach Smith for 35 yards.

“It was great to see our kids working their tails off and now we’re going to get ready for Aurora and we have the opportunity to go up against our third top team,” said Rhodes, whose Bulldogs travel east to face the vaunted Huskies (3-2) on Friday at 6 p.m. Mountain Time.
“We’re starting to get some people back, we’re a good football team and we’re ready to go play No. 3 Aurora.”

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