The Scottsbluff Bearcats won a gut check type opening game at home against Hastings on Friday night by the final of 21-13.
With a game time temperature right around 70 degrees it was a gorgeous night for high school football and a big crowd watched as the Bearcats survived a stiff challenge from the visiting Tigers.
Max Mason, the much talked about senior running back, didn’t disappoint. On Scottsbluff’s first play from scrimmage he dashed 91 yards for a touchdown at the 6:46 mark of the first quarter. After a Josh Moore PAT Scottsbluff was on top 7-0. The big play came right after the Bearcats defense buckled down inside their own ten yard line forcing Hastings to turn the ball over on downs.
The score stayed 7-0 late into the second quarter when Scottsbluff got on the board for a second time with a quick two play 45 yard drive. Max Mason went for 30 on the ground on the first play and then Braden Lofink had a nice cut back run that he finished off for a 15 yard touchdown. Another Moore PAT and it was 14-0.
Hastings marched down the field quickly and had a shot to score before halftime. A penalty on Scottsbluff on a missed field goal attempt gave the Tigers an untimed down from inside the Bearcats ten yard line but a nice defensive play in the end zone by cornerback Keegan Reifschneider thwarted the Tigers gamble to go for it instead of trying for a shorter field goal attempt.
Reifschneider also had a first quarter interception.
With Scottsbluff leading 14-0 at halftime both teams then came out of the locker room playing stout defense in a scoreless third quarter.
The fourth quarter was not so quiet.
Hastings got cooking early with quarterback Vinnie Schmidt connecting on an 8 yard TD pass to Alex Schrock at the 11:17 mark. The PAT was good and Scottsbluff’s lead was trimmed to just seven at 14-7.
On a night where Scottsbluff didn’t complete a pass the Hastings defense earned a three and out defensively on the Cats next possession to get Schmidt and the offense back on the field.
Schmidt didn’t disappoint. Scrambling out of the pocket to his right he threw on the run, lofting a pass down the right sideline to Connor Laux, who’d gotten behind the Bearcats secondary, for a 76 yard touchdown pass. A big missed PAT kept Scottsbluff in the lead at 14-13 with 7:58 to play in the game.
At that point it turned into vintage Scottsbluff football. Pounding away on the ground, moving the chains for multiple first downs with Max Mason all the while taking time off the clock. When all was said and done on the drive Mason punched it in the end zone from three yards out to give Scottsbluff the lead at 21-13 after another Moore PAT.
Mason finished with right around 230 yards rushing on 28 attempts. He was named the KNEB Taco John’s player of the game.
The Scottsbluff defense still needed to make a stand, and they did, as sophomore defensive line standout Garrett Nelson forced a fumble on Schmidt as he scrambled up field and the ball was recovered by Salem Harsh to seal the win.
Scottsbluff won the game without completing a pass by running for over 300 yards as a team.
After the game Head Coach Joe Benson called it a great team win with contributions from seniors all the way down to a freshman. Benson also lauded the play of Nelson, Reifschneider, and Lofink on the defensive side of the football.
Scottsbluff will take their 1-0 record on the road next Friday night for a tilt with Holdrege.