CALLAWAY, Neb. — For the first time since Callaway formed a co-op with Arnold in 2010, their football team, South Loup, has a chance to play for a championship next Monday against East Butler in the Eight Man-1 final at Memorial Stadium.
The Bobcats (12-0) defeated Medicine Valley 34-14 Monday night behind Jack Rush and a stellar defensive performance, which held the Raiders (11-1) to season lows in points (14) and yards (127).
Rush, whose season-high in carries coming into the game was 25, carried the ball 45 times for 243 yards, scoring four touchdowns in the process.
“We may have to carry Jack (to Lincoln),” South Loup coach Andy Schwarz jokingly said after the game. “But I don’t care. ... We’ll carry him.”
On a more serious note, Schwarz said, Medicine Valley proved to be the more physical team early in the game.
“We struggled up front,” he said. “They were a lot better, more physical. They really were a physical team. ... Some of the things we normally did, we were struggling to do.”
Perhaps the biggest carry of the night came on Rush’s 30th of the game.
With his team trailing 14-6 with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter, Rush took the snap and sprinted into the end zone, scoring his 41st rushing touchdown of the season with a 31-yard run. After the 2-point conversion, South Loup finally tied the game.
“We didn’t really make an adjustment (at halftime),” Rush said. “Everyone had it in the back of their minds —they had to go now or never. We just had to get it done.”
With the game tied, the Bobcats began to pressure Medicine Valley quarterback Sam Heapy. That pressure paid off at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Facing a third-and-19, Heapy threw a costly interception as cornerback Jace Connell stepped in front of Heapy’s intended target, Chase Newcomb, at the 38-yard line.
South Loup added to its lead as Rush found the end zone for the third time with a 1-yard burst up the middle. The score capped a 10-play, 42-yard drive — all runs by Rush.
Medicine Valley coach Scott Johnsen said it’s hard to simulate what Rush does in practice, especially with the way the playoffs shake out.
“You don’t really do much in practice this time of year,” Johnsen said. “You don’t want to simulate hitting. We just tried to tell the kids, ‘You know, he’s going to carry the ball a ton.’”
Early in the game, the Raiders needed a spark on offense. Facing a third-and-8 at their own 30. Johnsen called a trick play to find the end zone.
Medicine Valley running back Landon Lenz took the direct snap and pitched the ball to Heapy, who found a streaking Newcomb for a 50-yard touchdown.
“Every week we put in some trick play,” Johnsen said. “Usually we’ve done it first or second play of the game. ... We were kind of sputtering a little bit. We needed a kick-start. I thought it kick-started us for the first half. ... We just couldn’t finish.”
Medicine Valley (11-1)......7 7 0 0—14
At South Loup (12-0)......6 0 8 20—34
SL: Jack Rush 6 run (run failed)
MV: Chase Newcomb 50 pass from Sam Heapy (Sheldon Johnsen kick)
MV: Landon Lenz 44 run (Johnsen kick)
SL: Rush 31 run (Leighton Bubak pass from Rush)
SL: Rush 1 run (Cade Connell pass from Rush)
SL: Rush 1 run (PAT failed)
SL: Bubak 35 interception return (run failed)