COZAD — It was an inauspicious start for Jake Paulsen and his Haymakers’ teammates when they opened their season at home against Adams Central on Thursday. Paulsen rambled 23 yards down the right sideline on Cozad’s first possession but gave up the ball on a fumble.
That was about the only thing Paulsen had problems with on the night as he carried the ball 18 times for 275 yards and four touchdowns in the Haymakers 34-14 win over the No. 4-ranked Patriots.
Cozad coach Brian Cargill said the fumble only inspired his senior running back.
"I said you’re all right," Cargill said to Paulsen. "He’s very competitive. He really doesn’t show it but when something like that happens it really gets his fire going.
"From that point on, the rest of the ballgame, he was pretty determined and did real well.
"He’s a pretty good ballplayer. He obviously has some God-given speed.
"The kids around him have really stepped up. We have a talented group. The big thing is when you have the talent you have to work hard to maximize your potential.
"I thought our kids did real well tonight. They got a little hot and started cramping up a little in the second half. Both teams kind of struggled with that, but I’m proud of their effort."
After both squads were unsuccessful on their first two opening drives, Cozad opened the scoring on a Nathan Bubak to Paulsen pass 4 minutes, 51 seconds into the game. The pass covered 61 yards as Bubak scrambled to hit Paulsen. It was something that surprised the running back.
"That’s a little odd," Paulsen said about his pass reception, "but I’ll take it. It was just a Hail-Mary pretty much."
"We have to get a little bit better with our protection up front," said Cargill, "and fine tune some things, but if you can throw and run the ball it’s double trouble. It’s an execution thing so hopefully we’ll continue to improve."
Adams Central immediately put a damper on the Hamakers score, as running back Buzz Niederklein picked up a bobbled handoff and scampered 84 yards just a little over a minute later to help the Patriots take a 7-6 lead. The lead lasted into the second quarter, but Paulsen would put the Haymakers back on top with his second and third touchdowns.
The go-ahead score came on a 46-yard run at the 10:55 mark. Paulsen took a pitch from Bubak going left and then broke back right for the score. His second TD of the quarter came with 39.8 seconds left in the half on a 3-yard blast up the middle. The touchdown was set up by a 44-yard pass from Bubak to Conor Young.
Paulsen credits his line for his running success.
"That’s all on my line there," said the senior. "Got the huge holes and then turned on the jets. The line did great tonight."
It didn’t take the Haymakers long into the second half to begin to pull away from the Patriots. In their first possession of the half, Paulsen broke loose around the right end and 90 yards latter scored his fourth and final TD of the game.
On Adam Central’s next possession, Young picked up a Niederklein fumble and carried it 46 yards into the endzone for a Haymakers 34-7 lead. Adams Central would add one more score on a Niederklein 4-yard run late in the game. He finished with 197 yards on 27 carries. But it was the Cozad defense that caused the Patriots trouble throughout the evening.
"When they run that Maryland-I, you’ve got to stay on the line-of-scrimmage," Cargill said. "If they get up field they’re going to run underneath you and they’re going to run all day long.
"You have to be disciplined. The line has to stay right in their gaps. It’s control defense, nothing fancy. I thought our kids did a real good job with that."
Both Paulsen and Cargill were happy with the Haymakers performance.
"They’re a great team and really physical," Paulsen said. "We had a little trouble right away but it felt great to get the win tonight."
"Adams Central is one of the measuring sticks," said Cargill. "When you look at that team you say this team is great. They’re awesome and have been for years.
"If you want to get a program to that point, that’s who you look at. You say that’s the team you want to beat.
"You have to compete against those guys if you want to be good. So we’re very happy with that. We’re just happy to come out with a win."
Adams Central .................... 7 0 0 7 — 14
Cozad ................................. 6 14 14 0 — 34
C: Jake Paulsen 61 pass from Nathan Bubak, PAT failed 4:51
AC: Buzz Niederklein 84 run, PAT Jakob Weiss 3:49
C: Jake Paulsen 46 run, PAT failed 10:55
C: Jake Paulsen 3 run, PAT Conor Young from Nathan Bubak
C: Jake Paulsen 90 run, PAT Tysen Werner 8:24
C: Conor Young 46 int. return, PAT Tysen Werner 7:19
AC: Buzz Niederklein 4 run, PAT Jakob Weiss 4:46