In the end it was interceptions and two missed two-point conversions that were likely to blame for Chadron’s first-round 30-28 defeat at the hands of the Wayne Blue Devils Friday afternoon.
With the score 14-12 in favor of the Blue Devils, just over three minutes left in the first half, and the ball on the Wayne 30 yard-line, the Cardinals had the opportunity to take the lead going into halftime, but an errant pass by Cardinal Coy Bila was intercepted by Wayne’s Kaleb Anderson.
About two and a half minutes later Wayne’s Juan Vergara scored on a five-yard run, and Marcus Fertig caught a pass from Beau Bowers for the two-point conversion, leaving the Cardinals trailing by 10 points instead of two by the end of the half.
The lead grew to 30-12 midway into the third quarter when Wayne scored its fourth and final touchdown of the night, a 14-yard Vergara run that was capped by another successful two-point conversion, this time on a run by Wayne’s Casey Koenig.
Earlier in the scoring drive the Chadron defense was on the verge of holding the Blue Devils to a three and out , but a hard count by Wayne fooled a Cardinal defenseman into crossing the line early and the drive was allowed to continue.
Down 18 points, with about six minutes remaining in the third, the Cardinals began their bid for a comeback, putting together an 11-yard, five first-down, drive that ended in Cardinal junior Keelynd Clinton recovering a Chadron fumble in the endzone and Chadron quarterback Bila finding Jeff Cerny for the two-point conversion.
The touchdown meant Chadron began the fourth quarter down just 30-20, needing two scores to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Both teams were defensively sound to begin the quarter, but from the Wayne 30-yard line with about four-and-a-half minutes remaining, Chadron’s Bila was intercepted by Blue Devil senior Mason Lee.
The Cardinals would eventually force a punt on the following Wayne drive, and then draw the game to 30-28 on a 15-yard pass from Bila to Cerny, but it was too little, too late with only about a minute thirty remaining after an onside kick failed to return possession to Chadron.
From there Wayne was able to take a knee on three consecutive downs and run out the rest of the clock.
The mood was understandably somber following the loss, and a stark contrast was on display as Chadron Coach Mike Lecher gathered to console his team while the Blue Devils celebrated in the background.
With the season over it wasn’t a time for negativity, however, and Coach Lecher congratulated the team on their effort, telling them the loss was going to hurt for a while, but that he was proud of his team, and they should be proud of themselves.
“The boys played really hard,” Lecher commented post-game. “[I’m] happy – not with the outcome – but happy with the effort.”
“I wish we had a couple two-point conversions back, maybe things would have been different, but [I’m] proud of how the boys finished the game.”
An emotional Bila echoed Lecher’s sentiments in his own post-game comments. “It’s tough,” he says, “there’s a lot of emotions going on. I just couldn’t be more proud of these guys, how hard they worked this season, it shows how everyone cares,” he continued, “it’s amazing, a big family.”
Fellow senior Logan Tiensvold was a man of fewer words following the game, but also praised his team’s cohesiveness, sense of brotherhood, and their progress throughout the season. “We worked hard. 8-2. [I’m] pretty proud of that.”
For teammate and sophomore Cooper Heusman the view is slightly different. After all, the end of Friday’s game doesn’t mark the end of his time with Cardinal football like it does for Bila and Tiensvold. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t as emotional as the rest of his team, but for him the loss represents a lesson to be learned going forward.
“Next year,” says Heusman, “hopefully we come out, make it to the playoffs, and go further.”
He went on to praise the seniors; guys like Bila, Tiensvold, Cerny, Brayden Richardson, Beau and Drew Jersild, Sam Rischling, and others.
“All of our seniors – they gave us everything. They showed us what to do, where to be, how to be in the weight room, everything. We’ll just have to keep it up, keep going.”
* * *
Heusman’s block of a Wayne punt in the second quarter gave Chadron a chance to tie the game at 14, but the second of two failed Cardinal two-point conversion of the day left the team two points behind.
In addition to his blocked punt Heusman caught a seven-yard pass to complete the two-point conversion on Chadron’s final score and sacked Wayne quarterback Bowers once for a loss of six yards.
Chadron also received good defensive games from sophomore Clark Riesen and junior Dan Dunbar. Riesen had six solo tackles and five assists, and Dunbar had three solo tackles and five assists.
Cardinal senior Cerny obliterated his previous high of 36 receiving yards on three carries, ending the game with nine receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns. To that he added six solo tackles and five assists.
Bila threw 23 completions in 32 attempted passes, good for 227 yards total, including two touchdowns, but was picked off twice.
Tiensvold scored only once and his 91 yards rushing was the first time in four games he was unable to break the 100-yard mark. Tiensvold intercepted Wayne quarterback Bowers early in the fourth quarter to stop a Wayne drive that had made it to the Chadron 30 yard line.
First Downs 20 24
Total Net Yards 352 325
Rushes, Yards 46-260 25-93
Passing Yards 92 232
Passing 8-12-1 24-33-2
Return Yards 72 72
Punts, Ave. 5-17.0 4-32.3
Fumbles, Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties, Yards 2-15 5-40
Wayne 6 16 8 0 ---30
Chadron 6 6 8 8 ---28
Wayne—Beau Bowers 1 run (run failed)
Chad—Logan Tiensvold 6 run (run failed)
Wayne—Juan Vergara 6 run (Zane Jackson pass from Beau Bowers)
Chad—Jeff Cerny 5 pass from Tiensvold (run failed)
Wayne—Vergara 5 run (Marcus Fertig pass from Bowers)
Wayne—Vergara 14 run (Casey Koenig run)
Chad—Keelynd Clinton 2 run (Cerny pass from Coy Bila)
Chad—Cerny 15 pass from Bila (Cooper Heusman pass from Bila)
Rushing: Wayne—Juan Vergara 24-174, Brennan O’Reilly 13-42, Beau Bowers 5-33, Casey Koenig 4-6. Chad—Logan Tiensvold 17-91, Jeff Cerny 3-10, Keelynd Clinton 1-2, Clark Riesen 1-minus 2, Coy Bila 2-minus 8.
Passing: Wayne—Beau Bowers 8-12-1, 92 yards. Chad—Coy Bila 23-32-2, 227 yards, 1 TD; Logan Tiensvold 1-1-0, 5 yards, 1 TD.
Receiving: Wayne—Lee Mason 4-37, Brennen O’Reilly 2-34, Zane Jackson 1-18, Marcus Fertig 1-3. Chad—Jeff Cerny 9-103, Jake Lemmon 4-50, Brayden Richardson 4-32, Colton Olson 2-25, Logan Tiensvold 3-13, Cooper Heusman 1-7, Clark Riesen 1-3.
Kickoff Returns: Wayne—Kaleb Anderson 3-50, Mason Lee 1-22. Chad—Braydon Richardson 3-60, Jake Lemmon 2-12.
Tackles: Wayne—Juan Vergara 7-1, 8; Kaden Kneifl 6-0, 6; Mason Lee 3-2, 5; Casey Koenig 4-0, 4. Chad—Jeff Cerny 6-5, 11; Clark Riesen 6-5, 11; Dan Dunbar 3-5, 8; Colton Olson 3-2, 5; Cooper Heusman 3-2, 5; Luke Tiensvold 4-0, 4; Jake Lemmon 3-1, 4; Beau Jersild 2-2,4.