By Pastor Vince Carrig
Cornerback Austin Wootman intercepted two passes, returning one “to the house” and the other four yards away to create huge shifts on the scoreboard and thrust his Warriors to a 37-9 win over the Plainsmen in last Wednesday afternoon’s (Nov. 2) class C2 playoff game in Crofton.
The loss ended Perkins County’s season, with the team finishing with an 8-2 overall record.
Wootman returned his first pickoff 99 yards in the third quarter, all but sealing the win for Crofton.
Having cut the Warriors’ lead to 13 points and driving to shave seven more off of that, the visiting Plainsmen had locked Crofton into its first dogfight of the year.
“They were on their heels. We definitely had momentum,” Plainsmen Head Coach Chip Kay said of Perkins County’s third quarter drive to the Warriors’ 12-yard line. “We could sense it from their crowd. We had them on their heels, there’s no question.”
But blitzing pressure from defensive tackle Taylor Johnson hurried the throw and a critical block on the runback by hustling defensive lineman Eric Kleinschmit helped the thieving Wootman turn the tables on the Plainsmen, who instead of trailing by just six points found themselves buried in a 21-point hole in one play.
Wootman fell just four yards short of scoring two touchdowns, jumping a route and returning his interception 26 yards in the fourth quarter.
Solid defense by the Plainsmen in the first quarter actually resulted in a 2-0 lead for Perkins County. The Plainsmen had bottled Crawford up 10 yards from their own goal line when a second-consecutive errant snap sailed over running back Tom Peitz’s head.
Peitz chased the ball to the back of the end zone and kicked it over the end line to prevent an easy Plainsmen touchdown, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Peitz, however, made up for that bungle by cutting through the Plainsmen defense like a hot knife through butter on a 47-yard touchdown run to put Crawford ahead for good (8-2 with 9:06 left in the half). Peitz moved to the secondary with speed and used a spin move to elude a tackle before landing beyond the right front pylon.
Peitz rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns on the overcast, crisp fall afternoon.
The burgundy-clad Warriors scored on both sides of halftime to take a 22-2 lead.
Running back Justin Janssen dragged tacklers on two consecutive 11-yard runs just before quarterback Alex Janssen followed his blockers for a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Crofton scored on its first drive of the second half. Running back Logan Schieffer’s 25-yard run up the middle then set up Peitz’s eight-yard touchdown run off right tackle.
“We blew some tackles and we were not in position where we needed to be; we gave then 47 yards when they were struggling to drive the ball because we were creating turnovers,” Coach Kay said of Perkins County’s run defense.
The Plainsmen took to the air to mount their comeback, with quarterback Quinton Hite getting senior receivers Trevor Lee to make a leaping catch for 9 yards and Taylor Boldt to run under a bomb for 39 yards. Brody Prante then found himself alone running left with everyone else heading right for a six-yard touchdown.
Prante’s score cut Crawford’s lead to 13 points with 18:15 remaining.
Defensive lineman Vinny Ross provided a way to recover those points along with hope and momentum for the Plainsmen by clobbering Warriors running back Justin Janssen so teammate Derek Brueggeman could pounce on Crofton’s third lost fumble of the game at midfield.
Receiver Elliot Carlson’s nice grab on a crossing route moved the Plainsmen from Crofton’s 24-yardline to the Warriors’ 12-yard line, before Wootman abruptly interrupted the Plainsmen comeback.
Though the Plainsmen defense kept the Warriors out of the end zone after Wootman’s second interception, Justin Janssen took a counter play handoff 12 yards for the game’s final score.
“There’s no question that if a play or two turns out differently… who knows, [if the Plainsmen go] into that fourth quarter down six [points], and put a little pressure on them to be perfect—one thing our defense caused them to do is make mistakes; defensively we did a lot of good things, so, who knows?
“Our [players’] effort was unbelievable; our players worked their tails off. Our mistakes weren’t for lack of effort, practice, or preparation; they’re part of the game. If we could be perfect every snap, we would be playing at Memorial Stadium at the end of November,” Coach Kay said of his Plainsmen.
The 10-0 Warriors drew 9-1 Kearney Catholic, who thumped Blue Hill 47-7, for a quarterfinal playoff game on Wednesday, Nov. 8.
Perkins Co. 9, Crofton 37
Perkins Co. 2 0 7 0— 9
Crofton 0 14 16 7—37
Perkins County 1 7:53 Brueggeman safety
Crofton2 9:06 Peitz 47 run (Peitz run)
Crofton 2 2:03 Janssen, A. 2 run (run failed)
Crofton 3 9:04 Peitz 8 run (Janssen, A. run)
Perkins County 3 6:15 Prante 6 run (Hite kick)
Crofton 3 2:02 Wootman 99 interception (Peitz run)
Crofton 4 7:51 Janssen, J. 12 run (Mueller kick)
Rushing leaders—Perkins County: Prante 12 carries/71 yards (24 long) TD; Johnston 9/35 (11); Johnson 1/10; Hatcher 5/6 (3); Hite 10/4 (7); Crofton: Peitz 20/175 (47) 2TD; Janssen, J. 13/90 (21) TD; Schieffer 4/61 (25).
Passing leaders—Perkins County: Hite 10-27-131-0-2; Crofton: Janssen, A. 2-4-52.
Receiving leaders—Perkins County: Boldt 5/98 (39); Johnston 2/4 (2); Carlson 1/12; Lee 1/9; Miyamoto, Christian 1/8; Crofton: Peitz 2/52 (27).
Defensive leaders—Perkins County: Miyamoto, Christian 3 solo tackles/12 assisted; Hite 1/10; Hatcher 3/6; Ross 1/8; Johnston 1/5; Fosbinder 0/5; Boldt 0/4.