Scottsbluff slips past Hastings in 21-13 thriller
     2016-09-02      By Bonnie Fox    editor@geringcitizen.com
Scottsbluff running back Max Mason cuts through traffic on his way to a 91-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Hastings. 
The Scottsbluff Bearcats opened their season with an extremely narrow win, 21-13, against the Hastings Tigers in what some would call a thriller.

“We were pushed to the limit and I am proud of the way the kids responded,” said Scottsbluff Head Coach Joe Benson.

Hastings received the opening kickoff, and proceeded to moved fairly easily down the field and into the red zone, but the Bearcats held a tight goal-line defense, denying Hastings the early opportunity to score.

In the first offensive series for Scottsbluff, running back Max Mason set the tone, tearing off a 91-yard chunk of real estate, behind a solid wall of blockers. Overall, Mason had 27 carries, racking up a total of 234 yards for the game.

Other notables in the first half: Salem Harsh’s repeated tackles and a sack by Kris Kizzire bolstered the defense, thus keeping the Tigers from scoring during the first half. Before intermission, the Bearcats added to their lead with a touchdown run by senior Braden Lofink.

Bearcats quarterback, Noah Bruner, who was juiced about his first varsity start, said, “We handled ourselves well and have the best offensive coordinator,” adding that the Bearcats had a solid game plan. We “executed all right, but need to get better,” he said.

In the second half, the Bearcats execution began to waver. Their defense held, but early season conditioning wasn’t quite where it needed to be at the start of the fourth quarter. Hastings scored two touchdowns in six minutes, to turn the tide. A missed extra point by the Tigers continued to give Scottsbluff the advantage, 14-13. It’s all the Tigers would manage on the scoreboard.

Bruner, Mason and Lofink, would push and fight their way to positive yardage as well as necessary first downs to use up the clock. With 2:41 left to go, the Bearcats were at fourth down and short. Benson made the decision to go for it. Mason powered the ball through, which ticked valuable seconds off the clock; he had a short carry for another touchdown with 1:28 remaining in the game, a score that sealed the win.

“A field goal would not have done any good, we needed the touchdown and luckily we got it,” Benson said.

Kicker Eli De Los Santos would have a good punt with a good bounce into the end zone. Hastings looked to be on track to counter with a successful drive, after a completed pass to around the 40-yard line. However, the pass-play off the second snap of the drive fell harmlessly to the ground. Flags and an official’s hat were thrown on a holding penalty and unsportsmanlike conduct, the latter declined by Scottsbluff.

On Hasting’s third snap, the Tigers coughed up the ball, and the fumble was recovered by Garrett Nelson and Kobe Paez with 1:02 remaining.

After the game, Benson said, “We are so young, and will be going game by game,” at the same time he praised the play of his junior quarterback in staying composed. “Bruner did a great job; he is learning as he goes.”

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