Curt Bruhn held the ball high as he crossed the goal line to give the Cardinals a 26-21 lead with just over four minutes left in the game.

The line cleared a path for him and he spun off of one tackle and followed a Colbie Bila block into the end zone.

"Bruhn has a great game. No doubt about that," Cardinal Head Coach Mike Lecher said. The senior carried it 15 times for 64 yards Friday night.

 Bruhn said a good final game was important to him and the other CHS seniors who knew they hadn't qualified for the playoffs this season.

"Knowing that this was going to be the last time I was ever going to run the ball and play with these guys, I just had to give it all I've got," Bruhn said. "It wasn't really the season we were hoping for but we ended with a win and a winning season and that's always a big deal."

Chadron ended the season with a 5-4 record, just missing a chance to play in the postseason.

Lecher was proud of the extra effort by his seniors, but he said it was a team effort that sealed the winning season for his Cardinals.

"A little bit was senior leadership. There are some really hard playing juniors and sophomores out there too," Lecher said.

Getting a win Friday night took leadership and resilience. The game's start didn't fit the Chadron blueprint. 

A long run by quarterback Kaleb Gonzlaez set up a short touchdown run by Tabor Wasson for Gering. Gonzalez hit the point after to make it 7-0. After a Chadron punt on the next possession, Wasson found the corner and rumbled 45 yards for his second TD of the game. 

The Cardinals got some momentum back when they took over on their own six yard line on the next possession.

Bruhn had his number called on three straight plays to start the series. Those runs got CHS to the 25. A great pass from Trevor Berry to Cooper Heusman picked up 30 more yards to get the Cardinals into Bulldog territory. 

A facemask call advanced the ball to the 32. On the next play, Berry threw the ball deep to Tallon Craig who leaped between two GHS defenders to secure the ball on the five yard line.

Two plays later, Sawyer Haag powered his way across the goal line to get Chadron on the scoreboard. A double-reverse pass failed and the score remained 14-6 with only 34 seconds left before halftime. 

Instead of taking a knee, Gering completed two long passes and set up a 45-yard field goal attempt for Gonzalez. The kick hit the crossbar and fell short as time ran out.

Gering was supposed to get the ball to start the second half, but the Cardinals had other plans. Chadron split its coverage team wide to both sides of the field. The Bulldogs spread their blockers in response. 

Heusman chipped an onside kick to the vacated center of the field and he sprinted to try to recover it himself. Heusman and a Bulldog collided and the ball squirted away. Freshman Xander Provance saw the loose ball and dove to the ground to recover it and give CHS a huge lift.

Another pass to Craig advanced the ball and Bruhn finished the drive with his first touchdown of the game. Haag powered in the two point play and the Cardinals had tied the game on the first drive of the second half. Gonazalez was being held out for Gering because of a suspected concussion, so passing quarterback Anthony Walker called more of the shots for the Bulldogs in the third quarter.

Walker had enjoyed some success throwing the ball in the first half, but on a pass on the Bulldog's first possession in the third quarter, Aiden Vaughn came around the end and leaped up to deflect a pass. Haag and Bruhn both dove at the deflected pass and Haag caught it just before it hit the ground.

The two teams traded possessions and when Gering faced a fourth and short near midfield, they called a timeout. Lecher and his staff are experienced enough to know that something was up. 

The Bulldogs attempted a fake punt but no one on the Cardinal defense was fooled and the pass fell incomplete. Another great drive by CHS ended in a screen pass to Craig, who made a couple of moves to break tackles and found his way to pay dirt. The extra point failed and left the score 20-14 with Chadron's first lead of the night.

It didn't last long, however, as Gering drove quickly downfield and scored on their next drive. Walker hit the PAT with Gonazalez still out to give the Bulldogs a 21-20 lead.

But even seeing their hard-fought lead wiped away didn't cause the Cardinals to quit.

"That's one thing this team has done well this year, is not quit," Coach Lecher said. "We've been behind in almost every game."

Lecher said his players have learned to play through tough times and his staff helps with that.

"As coaches, we don't get disgusted and start ranting and raving on the sidelines in those situations and pretend like we're giving up," Lecher said. "We just go ahead and keep coaching the team."

The Cardinals won a field position battle on a few exchanged possessions and a short Gering punt gave them the ball 45 yards from the end zone. A big run ended with a late hit call on Gering that gave CHS a first and goal at the 8. That's when Bruhn followed Bila into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Gering had Gonzalez back after he passed concussion protocol and returned for the final period. The Bulldogs had one last shot to win the game. 

But it wasn't meant to be, as Vaughn made a big hit from behind and forced a fumble. Craig was there to recover the ball before it went out of bounds. 

Bruhn and Dillan Sayaloune, who had a great game running the ball and returning kicks despite a dinged up shoulder, helped get the necessary first downs to run out the clock. Sayaloune also had 15 carries and he covered 98 yards, including his 15-yard longest carry of the night to seal the win.

"This is a really big win. To win on the final game is a big win," Lecher said. "We weren't playing very good defense at the beginning of the game but we just kept making adjustments and finally made some big plays."

Berry had a great night running the offense. He connected on 12 of 22 attempts for 152 yards and a touchdown. He avoided being sacked and wasn't intercepted.  Heusman was his favorite target with five catches for 52 yards. Craig was the leading receiver with 65-yards on four catches, including the touchdown. Bila also had a 27-yard catch.

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