By Clint Andersen
The Gordon-Rushville Mustang football team ended their season Friday night in Mitchell. The Mustangs travelled to Mitchell to face the Tigers in what would be the final game of the season for both teams. The Tigers had a record of 1-6, but had faced only two teams with losing records all season – one of those being playoff-bound Ogallala.
In a departure from what had become routine for the Mustangs, they started slowly. They received the opening kick and moved the ball to the Tiger 28 where they turned the ball over on downs. Mitchell then took the ball 72 yards for a touchdown with 4:48 left in the first quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, Brandon Bailey found a seam and raced to the Tiger 26 before he was finally corralled. The Mustangs took advantage of the great field position and Thomas Sandoz crashed into the endzone to give the Mustangs an 8-7 lead after a successful 2-point conversion.
The Tigers were guilty of holding on the kickoff and started from their own 6 yard line, then drove 94 yards in 2:30 to retake the lead 15-8. The Mustangs went 3-and-out on their next drive, but a very good punt drove the Tigers back to their own 26 to start their next possession. This time, the Tigers marched 73 yards before scoring again to take a 22-8 lead with 4:47 left in the second quarter. The Mustangs wasted no time in answering with a scoring drive of their own as Tristan Tuma connected with Kyle Anderson for a 26 yard pass completion on fourth down to narrow the margin to 22-14 at halftime.
The Mustang defense made some key adjustments at halftime and limited the Tigers to only 19 yards of offense in the third quarter. The Mustangs also had difficulty moving the ball in the third quarter until Lex Haller grabbed a Tristan Tuma pass and raced 73 yards for a touchdown to pull the Mustangs back to 22-20 at the end of the quarter.
The fourth quarter started well for the Mustangs as they forced a Tiger punt and drove to midfield. A fumble on first down gave the Tigers the football on their own 46 with 9:15 to go in the game. The Tigers slippery running backs and effective passing were too much for the Mustang defense, scoring a touchdown with 6:08 to go that put the Tigers up 29-20. The Mustangs still had a chance, but their next drive stalled and a failed fourth down try gave the ball back to Mitchell on the Tiger 46 with 4:39 left. The Tigers went for the kill and put one more touchdown on the board to extend their lead to 35-20 with 49 seconds remaining.
The Mustangs refused to quit and quickly moved down the field before scoring on a Nick Sasse touchdown catch with :03 remaining. The onside kick was unsuccessful and Mitchell ran out the clock to preserve the win 35-28.
The Mustangs kept the game remarkably close and had a chance to win well into the fourth quarter. Mitchell outgained the Mustangs 400-346, but the most telling statistic was time of possession where the Tigers controlled the ball for 30:08 compared to the Mustangs’ 17:52. The Mustangs didn’t have a drive longer than 1:51 in the second half.
The Mustangs finish the season with a 3-5 record, but were vastly improved from the beginning of the season. Of their five losses, four of them came at the hands of playoff-bound teams. With only a handful of seniors leaving the program, the Mustangs will build on their youth and the valuable experience gained this year.