Dundy County/Stratton twin thousand yard rushers Quade Myers (#9/left) and Serbando Diaz (#36/right) were outstanding in Wednesday night's 20-18 playoff win over Fullerton.
The Fullerton/Dundy County/Stratton clash was billed by many as the premier matchup in Eight-Man One football Wednesday night and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
To me, it looked like an offensive matchup of Dundy County/Stratton’s lightning fast, quick strike ground attack versus Fullerton’s excellent passing attack, featuring some QB Hunter Haughton to Isaac Gleason hookups.
But it’s funny how wind chills approaching the teens can alter these types of projected matchups.
Oh, and how those frigid north winds can magnify the importance of opportunistic defenses taking advantage of numbing hands and fingers making mistakes that usually would never surface on a calm night.
These games usually comes down to a supreme battle of defensive wills, and of continuous deep gut checks, knowing that if you lose, your body will turn icy numb, knowing that you check in the gear tomorrow.
This was the story of an 8-Man football classic that ended up being one for the ages. One that, as any true lover of the game of high school football knows, would assure you of a broken heart no matter who ended up on the losing side in a game of this magnitude.
Fullerton scored on its second possession of the football game, driving 48 yards in 8 plays. The Warriors were aided by a Dundy County/Stratton offside penalty on a 4th and one situation at their own 39.
A few plays later the magical pass/catch duo of Hunter Haughton and Isaac Gleason hooked up for a 19 yard scoring strike. The senior receiver was all by his lonesome after sneaking off the line of scrimmage and ending up in the left corner of the end zone with no company.
Fullerton had a golden opportunity to add to their lea after halting Dundy on the Warrior 30 yard line when the Tigers failed to convert on a 4th and 7.
After a fired up Dundy County/Stratton defense forced Fullerton into a 3rd and 12 from Warrior 28, Hunter Haughton thought he would test Dundy’s pass defense.
The heady junior quarterback spotted senior Kyle Knopik 38 yards downfield, in tight coverage no less, then chucked the ball into the frigid night air thinking Knopik would out jump his defender.
He did just that for the 38 yard advance downfield.
The very next play, on a 1st and 10 from the Dundy 14, free safety Lincoln Waters read a Haughton pass perfectly, coming up with an interception to thwart a Fullerton drive that may have done great damage had it been converted.
Setting up shop at their own 20 with 4:54 left in the second quarter, Dundy rode the legs of their twin 1000 yard rushers, QB Quade Myers and RB Serbando Diaz.
Not only are The “Tiger Touchdown Twins” thousand yard runners this season, but the pair pulled off the same feat a year ago when Myers was just a freshman and Diaz, a sophomore.
It took only three minutes, fourteen seconds, an 18 yard sprint by Serbando, and a 15 yard face mask infraction on Fullerton, for the Tigers to knot the game at 6-6. Diaz did the scoring honors by recovering a Corbin Horner fumble in the end zone..
Dundy County/Stratton came out after halftime and took control with the wind chills continuing to plummet. The Tiger defense continued to stuff the Fullerton run game and put more pressure on Hunter Haughton when he attempted to throw.
The Tigers took their opening 3rd quarter possession 67 yards down the field to score. Serbando Diaz went in from the 2 yard line for his second touchdown of the game 3:28 deep into the 2nd half.
The double PAT pass attempt failed, but Dundy had their first lead of the night at 12-6.
Disaster then struck Fullerton later in that 3rd quarter.
Tough as nails Dundy County senior lineman Lane Shillington charged through the line to block Hunter Haughton’s punt at the Warrior 15 yard line.
Fullerton would not fold though. The Warriors pushed the Tigers all the way back to the sixteen yard line and into a 4th and 11 situation following the blocked punt. Unphased by the situation, sophomore quarterback Quade Myers nailed his 1000 yard buddy, Serbando Diaz with a 16 yard pass completion that carried to the Fullerton one yard line.
Despite a holding call that nullified a Dundy County touchdown and moved the football back to the Fullerton 11 yard line, the Tigers still hit paydirt when Diaz blew in for the score from 5 yards out.
Quade Myers connected with Dominic Sis for what proved to be the winning two point conversion, and the Tigers stretched their lead to 20-6 over Fullerton heading into the 4th and money quarter.
Fullerton fought back in the 4th stanza, just like they had so many times in the past. Hunter Haughton bowled into the end zone from a yard out to cut the Tigers lead to 20-12. But the two point PAT pass attempt failed when the Dundy County/Stratton defense swarmed in to bury Hunter Haughton.
Fullerton scored again after big CJ Pickrel pounced on a Tigers fumble. Hunter Haughton again did the scoring honors, waltzing in from 5 yards out. But once again Dundy snuffed out the two point PAT try when Lane Shillington broke through to break up a razzle/dazzle double pass attempt.
With 5:42 left on the clock, Fullerton still had time to make a comeback. The Warriors had two cracks at it, but an emotionally charged Dundy defense turned both possessions away.
Quade Myers picked off a Warrior pass to kill the first drive, then Fullerton simply ran out of time, as the Tigers stopped Haughton on a 4th and on at the Warriors 34.
Dundy County/Stratton (9-1) lives to play another day and will earn a home game in Benkelman next Tuesday with Arcadia/Loup City, who trounced Sutherland 72-14 tonight. The Sailors, by the way, were without 1000 yard rusher Connor Floyd in that game.
The Tigers were led by the fabulous running Serbando Diaz, who charged, was hit and continued to ramble for yards after contact time after time. Diaz would end the frigid night with 156 yards on 28 carries and three TDs. QB Quade Myers had 99 yards on 18 carries and ended up competing 2 of 6 passes for 28 yards for the game.
Defensively, I thought Lane Shillinton, Dominic Sis, Diaz, Myers and freshman Corbin Horner (#7) were outstanding. Reice Haines was also good. Overall, I was so impressed with the emotion and passion this team displayed throughout the contest.
That is something you just cannot pick up watching them on film.
Fullerton completes an “overcome the odds” terrific 8-2 season with no reason to hang their heads. If you recall, the Warriors were down to suiting up just 14 players after a 36-18 loss to Ravenna.
The Warriors never did get All-District players Isaak Norman and Chris Sensinig back after that game, yet Fullerton defeated quarterfinal teams Arcadia/Loup City and Osceola/High Plains along the way to that impressive mark. That’s playing on pure pride and guts folks and Head man Ryan Haughton is a master at coaching that.
Hunter Haughton ended the game with 14 of 25 passes completed for 158 yards and a TD. Haughton, despite rushing for minus yards, still scored two touchdowns on the ground. On defense, another player who fought through a big injury, Connor “Bubba” Sonderup played an inspired game defensively, coming up with some key tackles, especially on Serbando Diaz.
Dundy Co./Stratton (9-1)........0……..6……..14…....0………20
Full - Isaac Gleason 19 pass from Hunter Haughton - PAT-pass failed (4:39) - 0-6
DC/S - Serbando Diaz recovered fumble in end zone - PAT-pass failed (1:31) - 6-6
DC/S - Serbando Diaz 2 run - PAT-pass failed (8:32) - 12-6
DC/S - Serbando Diaz 5 run - PAT-Dominic Sis Pass from Quade Myers (2:47) - 20-6
Full - Hunter Haughton 1 run - PAT-run failed (8:21) - 20-12
Full - Hunter Haughton 7 run - PAT-run failed (5:42) - 20-18