GRANT — Clearwater-Orchard handed Perkins County its first loss of the season with a come-from-behind 38-36 win in the second round of the Class D1 football playoffs.
The upset victory made the cross-state journey back home much more enjoyable according to Cyclones (7-3) head coach Jeff Shabram.
“We have a lot of seniors on this team with a lot of pride,” he said. “We drove five and a half hours out here and we wanted to drive back happy.”
Prior to Wednesday, Perkins County’s (9-1) closest margin of victory was 36 points on Oct. 9 when they defeated Sutherland 66-30. With that in mind, Shabram believed that if his team could keep within striking distance it could pay dividends in the end.
“Coming in we knew that Perkins County was a very good team. They are the No. 2 seed and have a very potent running game. But here’s the thing, they haven’t been in a close game all year,” Shabram said. “We kept telling the boys to just keep it close and sure enough we did.”
Early on it looked as if the Plainsmen were on their way to another blowout win, using their formula of handing it to junior running back Derek Sis early and often.
Sis had three rushing touchdowns in the first half including a 51-yarder and the Plainsman built their lead to 28-8 midway through the second quarter.
The Cyclones battled back by driving the length of the field, finishing the drive with a stroke of luck when a fumble into the end zone was recovered by offensive lineman Alex Olivian for a touchdown to cut the lead in half at 28-14.
Sis scored again for the Plainsmen on the ensuing drive, but Riley Snyder took the kickoff 58 yards for a touchdown with 38 seconds remaining before halftime for the Cyclones.
That capped a crazy second quarter in which both teams combined to score 52 points, as Perkins County took a 36-22 lead into halftime.
After neither team scored in the third quarter, Clearwater-Orchard got a touchdown from quarterback Zack Martin from nine yards out and added a successful two-point conversion on a Blake Kester run to cut the lead to six at 36-30.
The Cyclones then got another defensive stop, forcing a turnover on downs, giving their offense the ball at their own 15 with two minutes, 20 seconds remaining.
Martin led a game-winning, 12-play drive, finding 6-foot-8-inch, 235-pound receiver Andy Kerkman in the end zone for a touchdown to tie the game. Martin then found Kester for the two point conversion and to givethe Cyclones the lead for good.
“Zach [Martin] is a really good quarterback for us and anytime you have a six-foot eight receiver, it’s a mismatch,” Shabram said. “The biggest key for us was just how well our defense played in the second half.”
Perkins County head coach Carlie Wells was disappointed with the result but proud of his team, especially the seniors.
“We had a great season but we just couldn’t get our offense going in the second half. We couldn’t get our blocking going and therefore we couldn’t run the ball as well as we’d like to,” he said. “I’m proud of these kids. The seniors are the ones who bought in and started turning this program around. When I got here, our numbers were low and they weren’t winning a lot of games and these kids are the ones who started to turn this thing around.”
Clearwater-Orchard ............................... 0 22 0 16 — 38
Perkins County ..................................... 6 30 0 0 — 36
P: Josh Johnston 1 run
C: Andy Kerkman 4 from Zach Martin [Kerkman from Chris Kester]
P: Derek Sis 51 run
P: Sis 17 run [Sis run]
P: Bailey Schrotberger 20 from Charles Johnson [Sis run]
C: Alex Olivian fumble recovery
P: Sis 8 run [Schrotberger from Johnson]
C: Riley Snider 58 kick return [Kerkman from Martin]
C: Martin 9 run [Blake Kester run]
C: Kerkman 7 from Martin [B. Kester from Martin]