KEARNEY, Neb. — Two huge third-quarter turnovers proved to be too much for the McCool Junction Mustangs to overcome as they dropped a 50-33 decision to the Harvard Cardinals in the Six Man state championship game Friday night in Kearney.
McCool cut the Harvard lead to 22-19 with 47 seconds to play in the first half on a 1-yard Chase Wilkinson run. That score was important, because the Mustangs got the ball to open the second half. Harvard actually drove down the field and on a lateral-filled play to end the half, was unable to add to its lead.
McCool was moving down the field on its first possession of the third quarter when Dana Hobbs had his pass intercepted by Noah Okraska, and the Cardinals used the turnover to up their lead to 11 points. A 6-yard toss from Okraska to junior Ethan Piper with 6:56 to play in the quarter made it 30-19.
McCool was able to answer the score right away when Wilkinson scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run, just one minute, 35 seconds later to make it 30-27.
On the Cardinals’ next series, they worked the ball down to the McCool 27 and faced a fourth-and-16. Harvard’s Noah-to-Benjamin Okraska connection from 27 yards was the first back-breaker for the Mustangs as they grew their advantage back to 11 at 38-27.
The Mustangs were driving again on their next possession, but disaster struck when Hobbs was intercepted again, this time in the end zone by Ryan Harms.
Harvard started deep in its own territory, but that didn’t matter as it worked the ball downfield. With 8:12 to play, the Cardinals got a 16-yard scoring pass from Noah Okraska to Piper to put their team up by three scores, 44-27.
After a first-quarter score by Hobbs on an 11-yard run matched a Noah Okraska-to-David Reazola-Martinez pass play of 6 yards, the two teams were tied at 6-all with 3:53 to play.
Harvard added a 17-yard run by Reazola-Martinez and a 41-yard pass from Noah Okraska to Piper before the break.
Hobbs scored his second touchdown when he went in from 3 yards out with 9:49 to play in the second quarter. Wilkinson also had the 2-yard dive with 47 seconds left in the half.
Harvard was unofficially charted with 230 yards passing as Piper had four receptions for 87 yards and Benjamin Okraska added three catches for 78.
On the ground, the Cardinals unofficially ran for 169 yards on 27 carries as Reazola-Martinez led the way with 15 carries for 84. The Cardinals had 399 yards of total offense.
McCool Junction had 179 yards rushing with Hobbs being the team leader with 19 carries for 155 hard-fought yards.
The Mustangs picked up another 116 yards passing as Bradley Lewis had four catches for 60 yards while Wilkinson hauled in five receptions for 53.
Hobbs had one interception on defense.
The Mustangs end their season at 11-1, while the Cardinals post a perfect 12-0 mark.