North Platte started fast, then answered several counterpunches from Omaha Central on Friday at Bauer Field in North Platte.
In the end, the Bulldogs (1-3) earned their first win of the season, topping the Eagles 38-23.
“It’s great to get a win,” North Platte head coach Bernie Madison said. “Just to see the smiles on the kids’ faces after the game makes all the hard work worth it.”
After scoring a combined 26 points through their first three games, the Bulldog offense had its coming out party Friday, racking up a total of 455 yards.
North Platte senior quarterback Braiden Ruffin completed 20-of-27 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for over 50 yards and a touchdown.
Bryson Krull led the Bulldogs in receiving with 127 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter. Junior safety and running back Delano Hernandez had a breakout performance, amassing over 60 yards of total offense and two second-half touchdowns. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Hernandez was tough to bring down all night, showcasing a physical running style.
“Delano runs bigger than he is. The kid’s a (go-getter) and he’s tough to bring down,” Madison said. “I’ve got to give big props to our offensive line too. Those guys were physical and opened stuff up. Obviously, when the line plays like that, Braiden has time to create plays and you saw that tonight.”
Omaha Central (0-4) entered Friday looking to get up off the mat after an 18-15 loss to Omaha Bryan a week ago, which snapped a 28-game losing streak for the Bears, dating back to opening night of 2014.
North Platte applied pressure immediately, marching down the field on their opening drive, capped off by a 1-yard plunge by Ruffin. The score was set up by a 28-yard connection from Ruffin to Krull.
After Central went three-and-out on its first possession, North Platte drove down the 2-yard line. A series of penalties backed the Bulldogs up, eventually settling for a Malik Lillard field goal and a 10-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Eagles speedster Jalen Harris took it 88 yards for a touchdown. Central tacked on a Vicente Lemus field goal to tie the game 10-10 at the 10 minute, 2 second mark of the second quarter.
“In the past we may have hung our heads and said, ‘here we go again’ but the guys really bought into the (family over everything) motto,” Madison said. “Good things will happen if we stay together.”
North Platte responded with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Ruffin to Caden Comer at the 6:50 mark, giving the Bulldogs a 17-10 edge.
On the first play from scrimmage of the third quarter, Eagles quarterback Richard Avila found Harris streaking down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown to tie it 17-17.
Later in the quarter, Central appeared to have the Bulldogs in a fourth down situation, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave North Platte a first down in Eagle territory. Hernandez made the Eagles pay two plays later, scampering into the end zone from 17 yards out, giving North Platte a 24-17 lead.
Central had one more answer on a 59-yard touchdown run from James Archie. However, Lemus missed the extra point and North Platte maintained a 24-23 advantage.
Hernandez scored for the second time on an option pitch from two yards out at the 2:36 mark of the third quarter and an eight point lead. The Bulldogs put the icing on the cake at 9:23 in the fourth when Comer found Krull for a 54-yard touchdown on a double pass.
North Platte is back home on Friday for the Homecoming game against No. 7 Lincoln High (4-0) at 6 p.m.
Omaha Central (0-4) 7 3 13 0—23
At North Platte (1-3) 10 7 14 7— 38
NP: Braiden Ruffin 1 run (Malik Lillard kick)
NP: Lillard 34 field goal
OC: Jalen Harris 90 kick return (Vicente Lemus kick)
OC: Lemus 22 field goal
NP: Caden Comer 15 from Ruffin (Lillard kick)
OC: Harris 80 from Richard Avila (Lemus kick)
NP: Delano Hernandez 17 run (Lillard kick)
OC: Archie James 59 run (Lemus kick no good)
NP: Hernandez 2 run (Lillard kick)
NP: Bryson Krull 54 from Comer (Lillard kick)