JETMORE, Kan. Ness City allowed Jetmore-Hodgeman County, ranked second in Eight-Man, Division I, to tally the game’s first 20 points Friday.
Ness City defeated Hodgeman County 28-26 on Friday, October 19, 2018. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)
Ness City kept fighting and mounted a comeback that ultimately put them over the top in a 28-26 come-from-behind wind.
Ness City struggled versus Longhorns’ physical junior running back Eli Salmans and had two early turnovers.
With 2 minutes, 41 seconds left in the half, Ness City scored on a 16-yard pass from senior quarterback John Pfannenstiel to junior Easton Seib. The Eagles cut the deficit to 12 points.
As Ness City ran off the field, senior wide receiver Landon Reinhardt shouted, “We are still in this, let’s go.”
“With the players that we have, anything is possible,” Reinhardt said.
The Eagles scored 22 unanswered points and led by two midway through the third quarter.
“Being down 20-0 and then coming back, our kids didn’t give up, and I am so proud of that,” Ness City coach Marc Cowles said.
HC retook the lead with 25 seconds remaining in the third on a seven-yard run from Salmans but missed the two-point conversion for a 26-22 lead.
Ness City responded with a 33-yard touchdown pass off a catch-and-run from Pfannenstiel to Seib with 5:30 remaining.
Hodgeman County drove all the way to Ness City’s 5-yard line and faced a 4th-and-1.
Ness City missed standout senior end Andres Rios because of a knee injury suffered with three minutes left.
Junior nose guard Alex Rodriguez switched out to end, a position he practiced a little bit Wednesday when Reinhardt had to miss part of practice. On the fourth down play, he helped corral HC sophomore quarterback Isaac Salmans.
The officials measured, and the Longhorns were just short of the first down marker with 49.9 seconds remaining. NC earned a first down and ran out the clock.
“It meant a lot, because once one guy goes down with an injury, we have two or three more guys coming in to play that position,” Rios, noticeably limping after the game, said. “And that definitely helps a lot, just filling in that position when I went down.”
It marked the second straight season Ness City had a massive key Week 8 comeback. Last year, the Eagles scored 52 straight points and defeated Satanta, 80-50, to help clinch a playoff spot.
“It honestly starts with our senior leadership,” Pfannenstiel said. “We have a great group of guys that just pull people together, and I am just thankful for those guys.”
This season, the win bumped Ness City to 6-2, 4-1 in district play. Hodgeman County (7-1, 4-1) still clinched the district because of a plus-82 margin.
NC is plus-63, and Spearville (6-2, 4-1) is plus-31.
In Week 1, Ness City lost 30-14 to top-ranked Central Plains in a game that went down to the final minutes. Two weeks ago, the Eagles had a 16-14 loss to Spearville in a game the Eagles had trouble getting off the field on third down.
“We played with Central Plains at the beginning of the season, so we knew that we could play with anyone,” Reinhardt said. “Just to come out here and prove ourselves, it’s just incredible.”
Pfannenstiel, who accounted for seven touchdowns last week, had another big game with 8 of 15 passing for 176 yards with three passing touchdowns and one rushing score. Rios tallied three catches for 68 yards, while Seib had two grabs for 58 yards, both for touchdowns.
“I thought we ran the ball great against a really good defense,” Cowles said. “We had confidence in how we could pass it. They’d looked a little vulnerable there in the passing game.”
Reinhardt delivered three catches for 35 yards, hauled in a 24-yard score and drew a key pass interference penalty.
“From the minute that we got done with last Friday’s game, we put it in our minds that we were going to come out here and play our best game,” Pfannenstiel said. “And we believed the whole week and spoke it into existence that we would come out and play our hardest and beat these guys.”
Senior Angel Guzman finished with 90 rushing yards, and junior Hector Rodriguez had 87. For HC, Eli Salmans delivered 49 carries for 270 yards and three scores. Hodgeman County scored on its first three drives, twice by Eli and once from Isaac.
Then, Ness City opened up the passing game and Pfannenstiel found Rios, Reinhardt and Seib for big catches en route to the first score and 20-8 halftime deficit.
“Andres, you can compare him to Rob Gronkowski, he can catch anything,” Reinhardt said. “But we have plenty of fast guys on our team, so if we can have time to get the ball out, it will be there.”
On the second half’s first possession, Ness City faced a 3rd-and-9 from its own 16-yard line.
Pfannenstiel rolled out his right and pointed to Rios, who saw his quarterback and got open behind the defense for a 29-yard gain. Three plays later, Pfannenstiel scored from three yards out and cut the margin to 20-16.
“Great quarterback in John Pfannenstiel,” Rios said. “I have loved catching passes from him. He’s amazing at throwing the ball, and studying film, we saw that spread would probably work a little bit. … We have that connection. If I make a read, he will know what read I am talking about, and he knows what audible.”
Entering the game, Issac Salmans had one interception in 95 career pass attempts. After a Rios sack, HC faced a 4th-and-23 from the Eagle 25-yard line.
He threw toward the end zone, and sophomore Edwin Rodriguez picked the pass at the 3-yard line.
“That was a great momentum shift,” Rios said.
Then, NC scored on a pass from Pfannenstiel to Reinhardt, who caught the ball just over Hodgeman County sophomore Ethan Burns.
HC retook the lead, and then Pfannenstiel threw an interception two plays later. Following the miscue, he walked over to the bench, sat down by himself and drank some water with a calm expression.
After HC had a turnover on downs at the Ness 21-yard line, he led the eventual game-winning score and set the stage for the defensive stand.
“I was upset first that we had a miscommunication on that route, and then I thought, ‘You know what, I am the senior quarterback on this team, I’ve got to rally these guys,’” he said. “And if it doesn’t start with me, then we are not going to pull this out, so I have got to pick my head back up and come out there and play.”
“That’s just what happened,” he added. “So I am really glad that I did that, and I was praying the whole time, so I was glad that God did that for me.”