Big hearts, big hits in Minatare win
     2016-09-23      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Minatare’s backfield tandem, Ephroen Lovato (30) and freshman Kaleb Gonzales led the Indians in scoring 20 TDs against the Banner County Wildcats last Friday. 
The Minatare Indians, who earned their first win of the season, had bookend touchdowns against the Banner County Wildcats, who were at home in Harrisburg, hanging their hat on an aggressive run-game for an 83-45 win, on a chilly Friday night, September 16.

Minatare, intending to start a win-streak, matches up against Potter-Dix tonight. Coach Dale Frerichs’ Coyotes lost to Banner County, 59-51, the week prior on September 9. The Indians improve to 1-3 after the win over the Wildcats, who continue their season against the Hay Springs Hawks, who also sit at 1-3.

In 6-Man District 1 standings, Minatare and Banner County sit among four teams with single wins, while South Platte, Cody-Kilgore, and Arthur County remain undefeated.

Coached by JJ Ozuna, Minatare sophomore running back Ephroen Lovato and freshman QB Kaleb Gonzales led the Indians’ ground attack with five TDs apiece. Senior running back Kyler Lane was the only other Indian to break into the end zone. Lovato had 19 carries for 289 yards, and Gonzales had 14 carries for 239 yards. Though there were no pass receptions for touchdowns, Lane snagged one for 14 yards.

On defense, Gonzales had 10 solo tackles, and three assists in the game, while Lane had three solos and five assists.

Coached by Brady Cross, Banner County’s offense has consisted of freshman Gage Alexander, who has had 13-of-37 completions for 228 yards, and 91 carries for 724 yards. Leading receivers, junior Brandon Blickensderfer, has had five receptions for 119 yards and five TDs, while fellow junior Payton Wick has had 15 catches for 100 yards and seven TDs.

On defense, the Wildcats are led by Alexander, who notched 26 total tackles through four games, and exactly half of those have been single-handed.

After Lovato scored Minatare’s first touchdown in a game riddled by a combined 22.

penalties, it didn’t take long for the Wildcats to answer, on a quick four-play drive that began at their own 22. Alexander broke away from Minatare’s tight defense for a 7-7 tie.

On the Indians’ next possession, after seven plays and four penalties, Lovato scored his second TD. By mid-second quarter, Minatare had stretched its lead to 22-13, with Banner County adding a score to stay in the game.

Lovato continued his rampage for two more scores, while the Wildcats answered with a long TD pass reception to Wick. Minatare kept the advantage, 36-20.

After the break, Banner County’s Alexander ran back the kickoff along the home sideline to pull within nine points, 36-27; it’s as close as the Wildcats would get. Minatare, again, rode Lovato for another TD and less than four minutes gone by.

On defense, Lovato kept pressure, but in the Indians’ ensuing drive, Lovato injured his arm and sat out the rest of the game; Minatare turned to Gonzales who didn’t skip a beat. On the handoff, he easily scampered 25 yards for the score.

The Wildcats next drive didn’t last long, losing the ball on a turnover during the kickoff. Minatare didn’t waste time, lighting up the scoreboard once again on a Gonzales TD carry. The Indians went up 55-27. Banner County scored twice more in the third quarter on a 20-yard catch and a 65-yard run back on the kickoff courtesy of Wick; his last gasp.

At the end of three, Minatare held the lead, 69-39.

The Wildcats could muster only one more score feeding Alexander the ball four times on their next drive with 6:35 left in the game.

Minatare answered with yet another TD by Gonzales, then Banner County failed to secure the kickoff, Lane fell on the loose ball near the 20. A few runs later, Lane found himself in the end zone for the final score, 83-45. With only four minutes remaining, and not enough time for the Wildcats, the clock ran out.

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