NEW UNDERWOOD | The New Underwood Tigers didn't want to get too deep into playoff scenarios going into Friday night's regular-season finale against Jones County.
To them, it was simple: win and you're in.
It wasn't easy, but the Tigers are in after holding off Jones County 38-26.
Although New Underwood went into the game tied with Wall for second in Region 4 power points, the Tigers had to win against Jones County if the Eagles also won. If both lost, they were both in. If one team won and the other team lost, they were out.
“We knew that if we lost, we were out,” New Underwood head coach Tim Hall said. “We knew it.”
Last season the Tigers were 5-3 and missed out on the playoffs. They weren't going to let it happen again.
“With the way the power points happen this year, we knew that if we lost we weren't getting in,” said Tigers running back Lucas Hall, who finished with 95 yards rushing and a big final touchdown. “We had to dig deep down in the heart of our bodies and work to get back on top.”
It wasn't easy, as the Tigers fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter and trailed 10-8 at halftime.
But New Underwood battled back every time that Jones County (3-6) would take the lead.
Jones County got on the board first when the ball was snapped over punter Cameron Koch's head and out of the end zone for a safety.
One play after the free kick, Jones County running back Philip Mathews was wide open down the right sideline, catching a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gus Volmer. Mathews ran in the two-point conversion for a 10-0 lead with 4:39 left in the opening quarter.
New Underwood then fumbled the ball away in the kickoff return, but the Tigers' defense stiffened and got the ball back. New Underwood got good field position when Aaron Oberlander returned the punt 38 yards, plus a facemask penalty, to get the ball on the Jones County 17-yard line.
Three plays later, fullback Travis Smith ran it in from 7 yards out and Smith's two-point run cut the led to 10-8, the score at halftime.
“Down 10-0, we were kind of fighting on the team a little and we said, 'You know what, this is a family. We have to get stick together,' and it happened,” Lucas Hall said.
New Underwood took the second-half kickoff down and took the lead on a 1-yard TD run by quarterback Koch and a 2-point conversion pass from Koch to Tanner Brindley.
Jones County then struck back on a 15-play, 94-yard drive, capped by a 6-yard TD run by Mathews and took an 18-16 lead.
That lead was short-lived, as Oberlander, after dropping the kickoff, picked it up and ran 80 yards for the score, putting the Tigers back up 24-18.
“I found out that when I muff it I can do better,” Oberlander said with a laugh. “Start of the year Lucas returned one too. When I muffed it, I saw that I was open and when I saw an opening, I just took it."
The Coyotes came back and regained the lead on a 3-yard TD run by Skyler Miller.
New Underwood battled back again when Koch found Oberlander open from 31 yards out for the score and a 32-26 advantage.
After a defensive stop, Lucas Hall clinched the win with a tough 14-yard run with 2:15 left in the game.
“That was very tough,” Tim Hall said. “Every coach that I talked to said that they are very physical and they would be ready. We knew it going in and it was tough. You have to rely on the boys to just step up and do their job and they did. They're a good bunch of kids; they're a great bunch of kids.”
Oberlander had an outstanding game, with 50 yards rushing, 96 yards in return yards and 63 yards on two catches.
“If not for our line, none of us would have been able to get our yards – kickoff and kick return,” Oberlander said. “It went the way we wanted it to.”
The Tigers will now concentrate on the playoffs with their first-round opponent likely Wall.
WALL 42, LYMAN 14: Wall put up 28 points in the first half and dominated Lyman on Friday night.
Wall’s Tyler Trask dominated the game, rushing for 163 yards on 16 carries and getting into the end zone three times. Trask had touchdown runs of 9, 30, and 35 yards. Wall’s Carson Johnston also had two touchdown runs of 6 and 8 yards, and Lane Blasius finished with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Lyman quarterback Jaelani Uthe finished the game 8-for-20, for 115 yards and one passing touchdown to Charlie LaRoche. LaRoche also had a 65-yard touchdown run for Lyman.
“We needed the win to get into the playoffs, so it was huge to get the win. The defense played a solid game throughout,” Eagles coach Kent Anderson said. “We played a solid defensive and offensive game. It was a solid team effort.
Wall (5-3) will host New Underwood on Monday in the Class 9A state playoffs. Lyman finished the season at 2-6.