LEXINGTON — First-year Lexington coach Jeff Rowan said he thinks he’s got a team on the cusp of making the leap.
But if his Minutemen squad wants to improve on its 1-8 campaign from last season, then it still has just a bit of work left to do.
In a low-scoring affair, Scottsbluff took advantage of a fourth-quarter Lexington fumble to score on a short field and then held on to the 15-7 lead for a season-opening victory Friday at Minuteman Memorial Field.
Lexington had closed Scottsbluff’s early 9-0 lead with a second-quarter touchdown and then had the chance in the second half to take the lead. But on the sixth play of a drive spanning the third and fourth quarters, running back Giovanny Rodriguez was bottled up in the backfield tried to pitch the ball as he fell to the ground. Instead, the ball squeaked out harmlessly to the ground, and Scottsbluff recovered. Four plays later — including a Lexington facemask penalty that handed Scottsbluff 15 yards — and Bearcats running back Ty Benson waltzed into the end zone for a 3-yard score that proved to be the game-winner.
Rowan, coaching his first varsity game for Lexington, said it’s a message that he’s been preaching to his team all preseason.
“When a team struggles to win games, those little bitty things will just bite you,” Rowan said. “You are not good enough to overcome those things.
“We are a good enough team to play better than we did.”
The Minutemen had one opportunity in the fourth quarter to come back when receiver Ted Berke took a lateral pass from quarterback Tyson Block and then heaved it downfield to receiver Patrick Spicer for a 27-yard gain deep in Scottsbluff’s territory. But the drive stalled on a holding penalty, and Block threw an interception near the goal line on a third-and-29 play. The pick sealed the game’s final score.
It wasn’t all Lexington’s mistakes that handed Scottsbluff the victory. The Bearcats also took advantage on the ground.
Benson rushed for 140 yards on 23 carries, highlighted by a 53-yard run in the first quarter that set up the game’s first score. Five plays later, Benson fumbled at the goal line, but the ball was scooped up by teammate Traceten Halley in the end zone.
Scottsbluff tacked on a safety on the next possession when Lexington’s long snap on a punt attempt sailed over punter Jackson Hinze’s head.
Lexington finally settled in to the game in the second quarter. Minuteman running back Eric Lemus caught a screen pass from Hinze and scampered down the left sideline for a 21-yard score to narrow the lead to 9-7.
Those scoring opportunities, coupled with Lexington’s fourth-quarter drive that could’ve tied the game, gave the Minutemen a glimpse of what success is like, according to Rowan.
“They are starting to get it just a little bit here,” Rowan said. “We give up the first touchdown and look at our kids, and they are just down a little bit. Then things start happening for us and we get that momentum back. We’ve got to ourselves over the hump. If our kids will just stay together, it will happen for us.”
The one thing Lexington didn’t lose was its determination to be better than last season.
“It’s coming,” Rowan said. “This is the first game. It’s not the end of the world. We’re going to come in Monday, we’re going to get after it and we’re going to come after York on Friday.”
Scottsbluff 15, Lexington 7
Scottsbluff 7 2 0 6—15
Lexington 0 7 0 0—7
Scottsbluff—Traceten Halley recovered fumble in end zone (Hinze kick), 0:52.
Lexington—Eric Lemus 30 pass from Block (Ayala kick), 1:54.
Scottsbluff—Ty Benson 3 run (kick failed), 10:08.
First downs 16 10
Rushes-yards 43-261 28-70
Comp-Att-Int 0-4-1 10-21-1
Receiving-yards 0-0 10-102
Total Yards 261 172
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 2-2
Penalties-Yards 5-30 7-50
RUSHING—Scottsbluff, Ty Benson 23-140, Traceten Halley 14-87, Stetson Anderson 4-19, Brad Johston 2-18, Jackson Hinze 8-(minus 3). Lexington, Eric Lemus 8-29, Giovanny Rodriguez 6-28, Tyson Block 11-9, Patrick Spicer 3-4.
PASSING—Scottsbluff, Jackson Hinze 0-4-0-0. Lexington, Tyson Block, 9-20-0-75, Ted Berke 1-1-0-27.
RECEIVING—Lexington, Eric Lemus, 2-29, Patrick Spicer 1-27, Ted Berke 3-23, Marco Muniz, 2-20, Lewis Lewis 2-3.