LINGLE – The first two defensive stands by the Lingle-Fort Laramie High School football team resulted in two turnovers by the Niobrara County High School Tigers.
It was two of the Tigers’ five turnovers, yet it only resulted in six points for the Doggers in the 46-36 loss on Friday evening at Kirk Field.
“It’s coming down to those little situations where we get a holding penalty and it kills a drive,” LFL coach Brandon Gifford said. “I asked our kids to do four things for us in this game. I asked them to execute, respond when we get hit in the face, not crack and give up the big plays, and to have some enthusiasm and enjoy the game.”
The Doggers hit on three of the four.
“Execution is the one we didn’t hit on,” Gifford said. “It’s encouraging. We are still turning the corner. Our motto has been, ‘climb the mountain.’ We climbed up another rung, and that’s what we have to continue to do.”
On the first play of the game, NCHS coughed up the ball, handing the ball to LFL at the Tiger 44-yard line, but the Doggers went three-and-out.
On the next defensive stand, junior Cooper Fauber hauled in an interception, setting up the Doggers with great field position on their second drive.
“The defense did what we wanted them to do. Hold your ground, they are going to gain yards and create turnovers,” Gifford said. “Again, here comes the execution. We couldn’t score off the turnovers. In a 10-point game, scoring off those turnovers, we win the game.”
This time, sophomore quarterback Nolan Spears sprinted 31-yards for the first of his five touchdowns for the game. It was only one of two scores for the Doggers off the five Tiger turnovers.
The 6-0 lead was short-lived as the Tigers scored 52 seconds later on a 60-yard scamper to the end zone by Aiden Applegarth, the first of five scores for the NCHS junior.
The Tigers pushed their lead to 16-6 by the end of the first quarter, but LFL wasn’t going to fold.
With 4:42 left in the second quarter, Spears punched in his second score on a 4th-and-1 to cut the deficit to 16-14.
The Dogger deficit remained at two until midway through the third quarter when Lusk pushed its lead back to 10 at 24-14.
The score was the start of a sudden offensive outburst by both teams, as Spears and the Doggers answered with a 71-yard run. After the successful point after by freshman Elijah Hatch, the Doggers trailed by only three, but it proved to be as close as LFL came to regaining the lead for the remainder of the night.
Lusk scored on its next two offensive possessions, but once again, Lingle wasn’t done.
With 1:32 left in the game, Spears scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the game on a 31-yard run, adding the two points, cutting the deficit to 10.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Doggers fell on the onside kick at the Lusk 46-yard line.
However, the home team turned the ball over on downs at the Tiger 35 with less than 20 seconds left on the clock, allowing NCHS to go to a knee to run out the clock.
For the game, Spears had five scores and 284 yards rushing on 30 attempts.
“We put the ball in his hands and asked him to carry the team,” Gifford said of Spears. “We got the looks we liked, and he made it happen.”
Defensively, junior Corey Ducheneaux led the Doggers with five solo tackles, along with 10 assisted stops, including one for a loss and a fumble recovery. Junior Hadley Fleming added three tackles, along with nine assisted tackles and two fumble recoveries.
The Doggers (0-4 overall and 0-3 in the 9-Man East) travel to Saratoga (3-1 and 1-1) on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.