Since 1979 Lusk and Southeast have been among the premiere teams in small school football. The teams have combined for 13 state championships since 1980 and one will add another to their trophy case Saturday in Laramie.
The Tigers advanced to the championship game with a 31-7 semifinal win over Burlington last Friday night in Lusk. NCHS struck first after the visitors punted away their first possession. Big gains by Grady Penfield and Matt VandeBossche set up a 25 yard reverse from Hunter Dockery. The TD was a sure thing after Zane Hladky made a crushing block on the last Husky defender in the way. Travis Smith booted the point after for a 7-0 Lusk lead with 4:43 left in the first.
On the next play from scrimmage Burlington answered. Their senior, multi-sport star Ben Mancuso, busted right up the middle and used his state track champion speed past the Tigers for a 68 yard score. Preston Wardell kicked the point after and the game was tied, while Tiger fans were in a bit of shock how fast that just happened.
Derick VandeBossche got the Tigers in scoring position with a 17 yard gain before Dockery snuck the ball in from one yard out. M. VandeBossche scored the two point run and after one period the lead was 15-7 NCHS.
Throughout the second period the defenses played hard-nosed playoff football, yet the Tigers missed a couple of scoring opportunities. M. VandeBossche fumbled the ball near midfield which Burlington recovered early in the quarter. Later the Tigers failed to score after Dockery’s sixth interception of the season, as the offense bogged down with penalties. The teams went into halftime still at 15-7.
Lusk created a little breathing room with an 11 play/69 yard drive that took over five minutes off the clock to open the third quarter. Martin Fitzwater (back after missing several games with an injury) scored from nine yards away. M. VandeBossche scored the two point run and the lead was 23-7 in favor of the home team.
After another defensive stand, Matt capitalized from ten yards out for the touchdown. The play was set up by a big pass from Bryce Sturman to Kevin Christianson for 34 yards, and Penfield got the two point run to make it 31-7.
Lusk got a bit sloppy in the final period and for the first time all season, according to head coach Matt VandeBossche. “It seemed like we’d have a big play, but get a penalty, have another big play, another penalty, but I can honestly say I think the kids were getting tired a bit. We didn’t condition as much, tried a few different things, but next week we’ll get back to conditioning, because we’ve got a battle on our hands with Southeast.”
Indeed the Tigers do have a battle with the archrival Cyclones. The Tigers won the first time back in September by a slim 7-6 score. The game was marred by penalties as each team was flagged eight times and each lost two fumbles, and came down to the final minutes as a Cyclone touchdown was called back. “For a couple of schools in the 1A West saying the 1A East doesn’t have nothing, it sure is nice to have a pair of East schools playing for the championship,” said VandeBossche. “We definitely have our work cut out for us, they’re big, strong on the lines and they have some good, quick backs. It will be a different football game than the first time-they’ll be ready, and so will we.”
This will be the 37th meeting between the two rivals with NCHS holding a 22-14 lead in the series. The teams met in the 2001 state championship in Yoder with the Cyclones winning 14-7. The following season, NCHS won at home 21-0 in a semifinal game. Southeast returns to the championship game after a 16-8 win at Cokeville last Friday afternoon. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. Admission is $11 for adults and $8 for students (tickets good for all day). Temperatures are expected to be in the low 30’s with light snow projected. Warm clothing is advised for all Tiger faithful planning to attend.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
BURLINGTON 7 0 0 0 7
NCHS 15 0 16 0 31
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Passing- Sturman 2/6, 35 yds; Dockery 0/1. Rushing- M. VandeBosche 13/100, TD; Penfield 16/65; Dockery 9/41, 2TD; Fitzwater 5/34, TD; D. VandeBossche 3/27; Sturman 3/17. Receiving- K. Christianson 1/34; Penfield 1/1. Defensive points- D. VandeBossche 19; Dockery 16; Sturman 15; Craig Christianson 14; M. VandeBossche 13; Fitzwaer 13; Penfield 12; Smith 9; Hladky 9; K. Christianson 7; Jordan Jackson 6; Dakota Clark 3; Kolby Eddy 1; Brady Thurston 1.
TEAM STATS: NCHS: Passing 2/7, 35 yds; Rushing 49/284; Receiving 2/35; 13 First downs; 5 penalties/50 yds; 1 fumble/1 lost.
BURL: Passing 2/13, 28 yds; Rushing 41/190; Receiving 2/28; 11 First downs; 4 penalties/20 yds; 1 fumble/0 lost.
For the complete article see the 11-07-2012 issue.
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