A block for the win

Wildcats win three in a row


Photo courtesy of Anna Burton

The Wildcats win their fourth game of the season against Lincoln Southeast in a well-fought match. Both teams combined had over 400 rushing yards and 200 passing yards. “Running the ball has definitely been our focus offensively,” head coach Kirk Peterson said. “while defensively we’ve been working on our man-on-man coverage which we will use a lot against Lincoln Southwest.”

Seth DeFreece, Staff Reporter

On Oct. 7, the Millard West Wildcats battled the Lincoln Southeast Knights in a back-and-forth game. Each team entered the game with a record of 3-3, with the Wildcats coming off two impressive wins against Millard North and South Sioux City, and the Knights recovering from an overtime loss against Lincoln Southwest. Both teams were looking to secure their fourth win of the season but it wouldn’t be easy.

The Wildcats received the opening kickoff, and after a solid return by junior wide receiver Jackson Williams, the offense set up shop at their 26-yard line. After a few rushing plays from senior running back Peyton Strong, the Wildcats could only pick up one first down before they were forced to punt from their own 45-yard line. 

Lincoln Southeast’s first drive didn’t accomplish much either, with junior quarterback Owen Baxter completing a 15-yard pass to put the Knights at the 35. However, after three running plays by Baxter and senior running back Max Buettenback, the Wildcat’s defense held strong and forced the Knights to punt. 

The Wildcat’s second drive started with 7:44 left on the clock and would last the remaining duration of the first quarter. With numerous runs from Strong, Williams, as well as junior quarterback Brody Peterson. Millard West was able to march down to the Knight’s 23-yard line before time expired leaving the score at the end of the first untouched. 

“The first quarter definitely started off slow,” Peterson said. “With my wrist injury I can’t throw the ball very well and that forced us to run the ball a majority of the game, but picking up a few yards at a time ultimately led to us scoring.” 

The second quarter began with two rushing attempts by Peterson, but neither was enough to pick up the first down, making the Wildcats settle for a 36-yard field goal from senior kicker Sean Murphy. After the kick, the Lincoln Southeast offense trotted onto the field and began the drive at their own 13-yard line. Numerous successful pass completions and rushes brought the Knights down to the Wildcats 9. But on third and four, Baxter was tackled for a loss of 11, which brought up a fourth down. The Knights kicking team set up a 37-field goal attempt that would tie the game up, but the kick sailed far right and incomplete. 

Following the failed field goal attempt the Wildcats received the ball with the opportunity to extend their lead. However, Millard West quickly went three and out and was forced to punt after two small rushing gains and a loss of ten yards. The punt was returned by Buettenback to put the offense inside Millard West’s territory. The Knights put up a solid drive that got them inside of the Wildcat’s 5-yard line, but they couldn’t convert on third and two. Which set up a 19-yard field goal attempt that ended up tying the game. The Wildcats ran out the remainder of the clock, leaving the score at the end of the first half 3-3.

“It wasn’t a bad half of football but it could’ve been better,” assistant coach Trevor Longe said. “During halftime, I told our offensive guys that we had to keep firing and grind out, and if we did that we would end on top.”

Lincoln Southeast began the second half with the ball on their own 36 after a 24-yard kick return by Buettenback. The Knights were presented with the opportunity to take the lead for the first time, but following two incomplete passes and a rush for only three yards they shamefully punted the ball away. The Wildcat’s drive was also short-lived as two penalties pinned the offense inside of their own 10 setting up a fourth and long. Following a beautiful punt by Murphy, Lincoln Southeast started at their 24-yard line. Following large rushing gains from Baxter and Buettenback, the Knights were knocking on the Wildcat’s door as they were inside the 15. 

However, after a pass completion at the Wildcat’s 10, the ball punched loose and then recovered by senior linebacker Creyton Schram, giving the Wildcat’s offense an opportunity to end the stalemate and score. But after one pass to Williams that only picked up a yard and two plays that resulted in a loss of yardage. Millard West yet again punted the ball away. Lincoln Southeast mirrored the Wildcat’s drive in a similar fashion, picking up minimal yardage that was ultimately set back due to a holding penalty. Ensuing an incomplete pass that set up 4th and 25, the Knights kicked the ball back to Millard West with only 15 seconds left in the third. 

“The third quarter was a mess,” head coach Kirk Peterson said. “Our defense had made all of these stops, yet our offense couldn’t convert and put points on the board. But if they didn’t score and we didn’t score there’s not too much to be mad about.” 

The final quarter began with a 47-yard rushing touchdown from Strong. Following the touchdown, Murphy completed the extra point which put the Wildcats ahead 10-3.

Lincoln Southeast was determined to tie the game up yet again. They began the drive at their 20-yard line and were able to take the ball all the way inside the Wildcat’s 20. Unfortunately for the Knights, a pass on second and sixth was intercepted in the endzone by senior defensive back Kegan Mountain. The Wildcat’s offense returned the field but unlike their last possession, Lincoln Southeast’s defense forced them to punt the ball back. 

With just over five minutes left in the fourth, the Knights knew they had to get a touchdown in order to stay in the game. After a 1-yard rush and 5-yard pass completion, third and four was brought up. Baxter stepped back and released a seven-yard pass to senior wide receiver Manny Appleget. Appleget then tossed a lateral pass to Buettenback which was taken all the way to the endzone. The PAT was easily scored which tied the game back up at 10.

Millard West quickly bit back with Williams throwing a pass to senior wide receiver Noah Shrader for a pickup of 36. The Wildcats later went down and scored a one-yard rushing touchdown by Peterson within 3 minutes of receiving the ball. With Murphy putting up the extra point the Wildcats led 17-10.  

The Knights ran the ball with Buettenback for most of the final drive but occasionally made passes to Appleget and senior wide receiver Sam Gandara. Eventually, the Knights were able to work their way just outside of the Wildcat’s 5-yard line. With 16 seconds left in the game, Baxter completed a 6-yard pass to Buettenback for the touchdown. The Knights were one point away from forcing the game to go into overtime. 

As senior kicker Nate McCashland set up the kick that would tie the game up, junior linebacker Jon Ferguson rushed toward McCashland and was able to block the kick. Millard West players, coaches, students, and parents alike were all going crazy. Whilst the Knights hung their heads in disappointment. The Wildcats kneeled the ball which put an end to the game. 

“It was like a dream,” Ferguson said. “Every guy dreams about scoring the game-winning touchdown, but when you’re a linebacker that dream doesn’t really apply to you. But I’ll settle for blocking what would’ve been a game-tying field goal.”

The Wildcats have advanced to 4-3 and play in a rather important game against the Lincoln Southwest Silver Hawks as it determines where they place in districts. There are many preparations for each team to accomplish before they face one another on Oct.13.