YODER – Southeast head coach Mark Bullington left a big decision in the hands of his players with 38 seconds left in the game.
Do they kick it and play for overtime, or do they run a play and go for the win?
The end result was a pass from sophomore quarterback Ayden Desmond to a wide open senior receiver Austin Short to convert the two-point conversion, putting Southeast in front 36-35. It proved to also be the final score.
It capped off a crazy final two minutes and 11 seconds of the game.
“We told the kids for two weeks that if we are good enough and we play smart, we can win the football game,” Bullington said. “We took advantage of their speed. They jump to a lot of things and fly to a lot of things. We used it against them.”
With 2:11 left in the game, Southeast’s senior running back Wyatt Campbell tied the game at 28 with a 3-yard run. Desmond added the two-point conversion on a quarterback keeper.
The Doggers were forced to punt 40 seconds later, but LFL sophomore Kaiden Riggs got the ball right back in the hands of the Lingle offense with 1:09 left in the game.
Lingle junior Nolan Spears scored from 9-yards out with 55 seconds left in the game to put the Doggers in front 35-28.
Seventeen seconds later, Desmond hit receiver Kannon Tippetts in stride for a 69-yard score.
“We had time. We still had a timeout or two,” Bullington said. “Coach (Shawn) Burkhart said they were leaving Kannon alone. We ran a little motion to that side, and they sucked in. Kannon was wide open.”
Then it was decision time for the Cyclones.
“We asked the kids,” Bullington said. “We said, ‘Do you want to tie it up and go to overtime or win it?’ They said, ‘We want to win it.’ We let them make the decision.”
“Credit to Southeast, they played well,” LFL coach Brandon Gifford said. “They we aggressive at the point of attack like we’d thought they’d be. They had some wrinkles like I thought they would. It caught us off guard. We had our opportunities to win, and we made too many mistakes in key moments.”
Prior to the flurry of action in the final moments of the game, it was a back-and-forth affair.
Southeast was first on the scoreboard in the closing seconds of the first quarter when Desmond found Short on a 6-yard completion.
On the ensuing Dogger drive, LFL faced a 4th-and-5 and Riggs kept the drive alive with a first down.
Three minutes later, Lingle quarterback Brian McCoid connected with Spears for a 25-yard pass. Anthony Arnusch added the point-after to give the Doggers a 7-6 advantage.
The score remained the same until Southeast dug deep into its bag of tricks, calling a play which resulted in Short throwing to Desmond for six points to take a 13-7 lead into halftime.
“We’ve had it in for about four weeks. We just haven’t had the need to run it yet,” Bullington said. “We told them at half, now do you believe us? We can play with them. They stepped up. They did a nice job.”
Coming out of the break, it took Lingle only 10 seconds and one play for LFL senior Slade Hopkins to break free for a 65-yard sprint to the end to put the Doggers back in front 14-13.
The Dogger lead didn’t last long as Desmond dialed up junior receiver Cole Sauer on a 31-yard pass to put the Cyclones back in front 20-14 with 8:46 left in the third quarter.
The game returned to a see-saw battle as neither team crossed the goal line again until 8:39 left in the game when Riggs punched in a score from 1-yard.
The LFL defense forced Southeast to punt on the ensuing Cyclone drive, and the Doggers looked to take control of the game with 5:35 left when Riggs scored on a 15-yard run, extending the visitors lead to 28-20.
Over the next two possessions, each team punted once before tying the game with 2:11 in the contest, ultimately setting up a flurry of action to end the cross-county battle.
The loss was the first of the season for the Doggers, as they fell to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the 9-Man East, while the win extends the winning streak to five in a row, improving to 5-1 and 5-0. The Cyclones travel to Saratoga on Friday for a 6 p.m. kickoff, while the Doggers host Pine Bluffs at 7 p.m. Friday.
For Southeast, the message from Bullington remains the same: They can play with anyone.
“We can play with Pine,” he said. “We can play with anyone if we don’t go rouge and do our own things. If we win those last two games, we are the one seed, and we’ll host all the way through.”
Meanwhile, Gifford said his team is resilient and will bounce back.
“We kept playing football. We kept battling. It was a great football game,” he said. “We are resilient. We’re okay. There are some things we’ll come back on Monday after we watch tape and adjust moving forward. We have another big game next week against Pine. The sun comes up tomorrow. We’ll lick our wounds, but once the sun comes up tomorrow, we’ll get back to work.”