JETMORE, Kan. The playoff picture is a little clearer this weekend for the smaller football classifications around Kansas. In Jetmore Friday night, that meant a district title was on the line between the host Longhorns and then-unbeaten Ness City. Leading just 22-18 at the half, Hodgeman County dominated the final two quarters to secure the crown with a 52-26 win.
Much could have hinged on the final five seconds of the first half. Hodgeman County senior Eli Salmons scored from six yards out with 94 seconds to play in the half, the converted the two points on a second effort to put his Longhorns ahead 22-12.
Ness City drove back down the field, reaching the 18-yard line with just five seconds left on the clock. Sophomore quarterback Jose Guzman dropped the ensuing snap and still managed to spike the ball. After another muffed spike attempt, members of the Longhorn sideline headed for the locker room. Instead, Guzman and his Eagles were given one final crack at the end zone. A Guzman pass slipped through a gathering in the end zone where senior Hector Rodriguez was waiting alone. The Eagles still trailed 22-18 at the break.
Hodgeman County appeared to have forgotten the series to open the first half, but Salmans coughed up the ball inside the Eagle 5-yard line and Ness City senior Skyler Woods recovered.
The Longhorn defense answered the call and Hodgeman was never seriously threatened again. Isaac Salmans picked off a Guzman pass, then Eli Salmans capped a drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. After a Ness City punt, Isaac Salmans found Efren Chavez on third-and-long for a 15-yard strike and 36-18 score.
The Eagles did make things interesting when another Guzman pass was deflected but still found Matthew Delaney for a 22-yard score. Still a 2-possession game, Eli Salmans answered with his fifth and longest touchdown of the night – a 69-yard run down the Eagle sideline.
Hodgeman County recovered the ensuing kicked after it struck a Ness City player, then junior Conner Ruff provided the exclamation point with a 10-yard touchdown run.
Ness City has relied on a ground attack all season, but Guzman was effective Friday with 153 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions on 10-of-20 passing. Guzman also added 64 rushing yards on 14 carries, and Rodriguez had a nice night with 125 rushing yards on 16 attempts to go with five receptions for 82 yards and two scores.
Eli Salmans, who entered the night with nearly 1,500 rushing yards, finished with 197 yards and five scores on his 28 carries. Isaac Salmans added 55 yards on his 12 attempts and also threw for 63 yards on 5-of-12 passing.
As district champion, Hodgeman County will host the loser of the Republic County/Sacred Heart game. Ness City will host the winner of that game. Both teams were winless entering week eight of the season.