FORT CALHOUN, Neb. — Spencer Shull's game-ending interception was a rare highlight for the defense Wednesday night in Fort Calhoun's 42-35 win against Ashland-Greenwood that sends the Pioneers to the Class C-1 quarterfinals for the first time.
The second-round game was barely halfway through the second quarter and the No. 8 Pioneers (9-1) were leading 29-28.
“Who knew we were going to a track meet?” Fort Calhoun coach Mike Huffman said.
His team took a two-touchdown lead for the only time midway through the fourth quarter, but the Bluejays went 60 yards in 2½ minutes for their first points since the second quarter.
They got the ball back at their 29 with 1:59 left. A 30-yard pass to Tyler Craven moved the Jays to the Fort Calhoun 16.
After Gunnar Garner spiked the ball to stop the clock, the quarterback fumbled the next snap in pistol formation and lost 11 yards. James Rathjen sacked him for another 10 yards and Shull's pickoff came on fourth-and-31.
“We said we'd either win swinging or go down swinging,” Jays coach Ryan Thompson said. “The first time we played them, they shut us down.
“We said we had to be better in our responsibilities and our line played outstanding.”
Rathjen, who scored four touchdowns, started his night with an 83-yard kickoff return during the early scoring spree.
Pioneers quarterback Jordan Kann ran for a game-high 262 yards and two scores. Still dealing with knee pain from an injury several games ago, Kann spent time in the first half pedaling on a fitness machine on the sideline while not on offense.
Kann threw seven times, completing three for 76 yards. Leading receiver Jaden Boudle was shut out.
“We weren't able to get the ball to Jaden,” Huffman said. “They chose to take away the deep ball and the screen.”
Garner ran for three scores between touchdown runs of 20 yards from Jordan Scheil in the first quarter and 4 yards from Russel Beard in the final quarter. Beard led the Jays with 115 yards on 15 carries, with Scheil getting 92 yards on seven carries.
“We shut Garner down the first time and what we had seen on film, he didn't pitch,” Huffman said. “Tonight he's pitching it.
“Beard was a man-child out there. Ashland stepped up all night.”
Fort Calhoun will visit two-time defending Class C-1 champion Norfolk Catholic for its quarterfinal assignment next Tuesday.
Ashland-Greenwood (7-3).........................14 14 0 7—35
At Fort Calhoun (9-1)..................................21 8 7 6—42
FC: Jordan Kann 33 run (Jaden Boudle kick)
AG: Jordan Scheil 20 run (Ben Stille kick)
FC: James Rathjen 83 kickoff return (kick failed)
AG: Gunnar Garner 9 run (Stille kick)
FC: Kann 8 run (Kann run)
AG: Garner 1 run (Stille kick)
FC: Rathjen 8 run (Kann run)
AG: Garner 4 run (Stille kick)
FC: Rathjen 7 run (Boudle kick)
FC: Rathjen 4 run (kick failed)
AG: Russel Beard 4 run (Stille kick)
RUSHING: AG, Beard 15-115, Garner 16-52, Scheil 7-92. FC, Kann 23-262, Rathjen 23-95, Boudle 2-3, Spencer Shull 1-3.
PASSING: AG, Garner 8-17-2 120, Scheil 0-2-0 0. FC, Kann 3-7-1 76.
RECEIVING: AG, Tyler Craven 3-46, Scheil 4-47, Dillon Campbell 1-27. FC, Shull 1-59, Rathjen 1-5, Tyler Pace 1-17.
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