With neither Northwest or Scottsbluff able to go up by two possessions, it wasn’t surprising when Friday’s game turned on one late play.
And that play was in favor of the Bearcats.
Sebastien Boyle broke out for a 67-yard touchdown run with 2:13 remaining to give Scottsbluff a 43-36 win over the Class B No. 10-rated Vikings (2-3).
“I think both teams were incredibly evenly matched,” Scottsbluff coach Jud Hall said. “Like I just told the kids, I just think we made one more play than they did. I think that was the difference in the game.
“They made plays on offense and defense. We made plays when we had to, and I think we made just one more play in a big-time game.”
Boyle’s game-winner was his third touchdown as he rushed for 200 yards on 26 carries. It also came on a third-and-3 play.
“We’re kind of build that way,” Hall said. “We’re built to grind and grind and grind. Then when we get a chance in the fourth quarter or second half, we want to pop those big runs. I think we were able to do that.”
Northwest coach Kevin Stein said that play summed up much of the game with Scottsbluff (3-2) having success on a third-down play.
“Third downs were huge,” he said. “We did not get them off the field on third downs and we were not very good at converting third downs. Even the times that we made
third downs, we just kind of had to gut it out and make a play or come up with a big throw. We didn’t block it well up front or they made a play, and then we had to make it athletically.”
Northwest did convert two third downs and a fourth down on its final possession to drive down to the Scottsbluff 25-yard line. But two Sam Hartman throws into the end zone fell incomplete, the second as time expired.
Boyle’s game-winner came 1:14 after the Vikings capped off a nine-play, 77-yard drive to tie the game. Hartman connected with Trevin Harring for a 37-yard score with 3:27 remaining, their second TD combo of the game.
“They got into the huddle, had a good vibe there and got the job done,” Stein said. “We did exactly what we needed to do offensively. Defensively, we were in the perfect position and had them at third-and-long for them. Then we gave up that long run. It’s inexcusable. We have to make those tackles.”
Scottsbluff took a 36-29 lead when quarterback Braden Stull broke off a 43-yard run just 18 seconds into the fourth quarter.
“It was a little bit them leaning on us,” Stein said of the long touchdowns in the final period. “It’s demoralizing. It’s like a boxer that gives a jab-jab-jab-jab-jab, and then all of a sudden a haymaker comes out and they get you. I think they got mojo and took our mojo away from us.”
Northwest controlled the first quarter, forcing three three-and-outs and allowing 10 yards of total offense.
A 20-yard pass from Hartman to Harring put the Vikings up 2:15 into the game. But two more chances came up empty, including when a penalty backed up Northwest after having it third-and-2 from the Bearcat 9.
That was a story for much of the game with the Vikings amassing 11 penalties for 101 yards.
“We shouldn’t have been up 7-0 at the end of the first quarter,” Stein said. “It should have easily been 21-0 — at the worst 10-0. I kick myself for not kicking the field goal there and giving us a chance to go up two scores.”
On the first play of the second quarter, Stull hit Jose Rodriguez for a 68-yard connection on third-and-11 from Scottsbluff’s 4-yard line. Stull ran in from 11 yards out to tie the game five plays later, and the back-and-forth between the teams was on.
“I told the guys at halftime I didn’t think we got off the bus ready to play,” Hall said. “Imagine if we would have played the first eight minutes of this game what it would have been like.
“We got behind early, we got behind the sticks early in the game, had to play a battle of field position and then we popped that big pass to kind of flip the field a little bit and got some things rolling after that.”
Stein said the long pass was a momentum changer.
“It’s our Achilles heel — third-and-11 or third-and-12,” he said. “It’s like the worst situation for us defensively. We’ve got to figure out a way just to get off the field, and we didn’t do that.”
Hartman finished with 178 yards on 36 carries and was 12-for-28 for 247 yards to lead the Vikings.