It appeared through the first three periods in Saturday afternoon's seventh-annual Northeast Nebraska All-Star Football Classic, that the White team's balanced offensive attack would cruise to victory.
By then, field goals of 27 and 30 yards by Norfolk’s Connor Clayton, a 72-yard touchdown completion from Battle Creek's Ty Heimes to Jadyn Smeal of Guardian Angels Central Catholic, and a 49-yard interception return by Riverside's Ty Martinsen had the White squad leading 20-0.
“We were trying to get everybody involved,” White team coach Ron Beacom of Neligh-Oakdale said.
However, the Red team continued to patiently feature a rushing effort by Randolph's Noah Scott (34 carries, 158 yards) and also took advantage of an All-Star game scoring rule to put 10-straight points on the board in the fourth quarter by way of a 27-yard field goal by Devan Roth of Pierce and a nine-yard rushing touchdown by Ponca quarterback Evan Anderson.
All of a sudden, the Red team had closed within 20-10 with just under five minutes remaining.
But it wouldn’t prove to be enough as the White team held on for a 20-13 victory.
Red team coach Tom Allen of Crofton said, “The 17-point rule helped us, and they (the Red team) probably got a little conservative just to get the game under their belt, but it gave us some chances to come back and tie it. It was a fun finish.”
The rule allows for more offensive possessions for a team that finds itself behind by 17 or more points.
The Red offense bounced back from an interception early in the second half to forge a 17-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with Roth’s field goal. Because they were down by 17 points, the Red team got the ball again and put together a similar drive. This time, they used 12 plays to cover 80 yards, with Ponca’s Evan Anderson covering the final nine yards by following Scott into the line. A key play in the drive was a 33-yard halfback pass from Scott to Gage McGill of Ponca.
A third-consecutive scoring chance ended when Clayton stepped in front of a Red team receiver inside the 10-yard line to pick off a pass by Anderson. But after its defense forced a three-and-out by the White offense, Roth sent a 46-yard field goal through the uprights to bring the Red team to within 20-13.
Norfolk Catholic’s Jalen Robinson recovered the ensuing onside kick for the Red team with two seconds left. On the game's final play, a touchdown-preventing tackle of Scott on the 10-yard line by Oakland-Craig’s Robby Mayberry stopped the Red squad's “hook-and-ladder” gadget play to preserve the White team's 20-13 win.
“We didn’t practice that play this week; we had some other trick plays, but we decided to run that, and it almost made it,” Allen said. “The kid made a great tackle.”
Quarterbacks Blake Anderson of West Point-Beemer (7-of-12, 66 yards) and Heimes (6-of-7, 101 yards) paced the White team’s offense to a combined 167 yards through the air, while the Red squad accumulated 130 passing yards from Evan Anderson (5-of-13, 71 yards), Scott (1-of-1, 33 yards), and Wynot’s Landon Wieseler (2-of-5, 26 yards) to go with Scott’s rushing yards, but they combined for three interceptions as well.
“It was a great week; our goal was to pick 36 kids we thought we could play, and we focused on those spots,” Beacom said. “I really loved the way the kids came together; they really played for each other, played really hard, and had a lot of fun — and that was the goal for the week.”
Allen agreed that he enjoyed his team and interacting with the coaches on his staff.
“Working with the other coaches, being able to spend time with them and learn from them — you get lifelong friendships,” he said. “And the kids are just unbelievable; these Northeast Nebraska kids are courteous and polite, and they’re great football players.”
Individual “teammate” awards went to Clayton for the White team and Brad Tomasek of Crofton for the Red team. Also, Ben Vander Griend of West Point-Beemer for the White team and Noah Scott for the Red team won offensive player honors, while Martinsen (White, West Point-Beemer) and Scott (Red) won “offensive player” honors, while Riverside’s Martinsen for the White team and Ryder Fuchs of Pierce for the Red team earned “defensive player” designation.
Score by quarters
Red 0 0 0 13 — 13
White 3 14 3 0 — 20
White: Connor Clayton 27 FG, 5:59.
White: Jadyn Smeal 72 pass from Ty Heimes (Clayton kick), 2:56.
White: Ty Martinsen 49 int return (Clayton kick), 1:04.
White: Clayton 30 FG, 7:59.
Red: Devan Roth 27 FG, 11:11.
Red: Evan Anderson 9 run (Roth kick), 4:52.
Red: Roth 46 FG, :05.