By Stephen McKay
Sports Writer 

Raiders top Chadron in season opener

Linneman runs for more than 150 yards, 2 TDs


Stephen McKay

The Red Raiders' Jake Heeren grinds out a first down in the second half against the Chadron Cardinals on Friday night.

CHADRON - When the Chadron Cardinals began Friday's season opener with a 68-yard touchdown drive over the Sidney Red Raiders, the large home crowd was brought to its collective feet in excited approval.

Fortunately for the Raiders, a large group of their own fans made the long drive northward - and it was they who ultimately had the most to cheer about.

Despite yielding an early touchdown, the Red Raiders (1-0) quickly recovered and went on to post a 41-7 victory over Chadron (0-1), of Class C1. The Cardinals, which lost their 1,000-yard rusher Jackson Dickerson to graduation, came into the contest with a plan to throw the ball. The plan met with only moderate success, however, as a stingy Sidney defense stiffened after the first drive.

"It's just that first-game stuff and everybody's a little nervous," said Raiders head coach Chris Koozer who was coaching his first game for Sidney. "My major focus right now is making sure they play together as a team and work hard - and they did a nice job with that."

Said Raiders' wide out and defensive end Tyler Wintholz, "We weren't overconfident when we came in here, but maybe we were a little antsy. When we got to the sidelines after that first drive, Coach really woke us up and we were fine after that."

While Chadron drew first blood with a 19-yard pass from quarterback Marcus Fernandez to Naleka Sayaloune, Sidney was quick to respond. Junior running back Alex Linneman ran 84 yards down the right sideline on the Raiders first offensive play of the game.

"We just wanted to get the outside edge there and our blockers did a great job and made it easy for me," Linneman said. "Hunter Secrest and John Bramer both stood their guys up and all I had to do was run."

Though Sidney still trailed 7-6 after the missed conversion, the Raiders defense soon put the ball back in the hands of quarterback Brady Radcliffe. He was making his first start under center after a two-year stint as backup.

While Radcliffe completed a four-yard pass to Coby Haas and an 11 yarder to Jake Heeren, most of the territory gained on Sidney's 75-yard go-ahead drive was picked up on the ground.

During the march, Heeren plowed ahead for a 15-yard gain, Secrest went for 17, Linneman for 10 and Derek Robb six. Robb also travelled the final three yards with 2:27 left in the opening quarter. When Heeren ran in the conversion, Sidney took a 14-7 lead and never looked back.

"Our O line came together after that first drive," said center Cody Hofrock. "We worked really well together and blew them off the ball a few times. I think we worked a lot better together tonight than we did to start last year.

"We came in here knowing Chadron would be down, but they always have a good football program so you can't take them lightly," added Hofrock.

In the second quarter, an interception by Haas deep in Cardinals territory set up Linneman's second scoring run. Josh Austad then thwarted Chadron's next drive by recovering a fumble on the first play of the ensuing drive. Two plays later, a Heeren nine-yard jaunt put Sidney up 27-7.

"The thing we wanted to do is run on them and get set with our line," Radcliffe said. "There are a lot of things we can improve on, but that's always going to be the case - especially after the first game."

In the second half, Wintholz upped the lead to 34-7 after reeling in a 20-yard toss from Radcliffe. Sidney scored its final touchdown of the game in the third quarter with the help of three big plays on defense.

Wintholz was first up as he sacked Fernandez for a big loss in Chadron territory forcing a punt. The ensuing boot was blocked by Isaiah Votruba and picked up by Haas who ran in for the touchdown.

"The effort was really good tonight. My only stress now is to make sure we play all four quarters regardless of the score," Koozer said. "There's some first-game stuff we have to work on and that's going to fall on both coaches and kids. Overall it was very nice effort."

The Raiders travel another long road Friday. They will head to Hastings to meet Adams Central at 7 p.m. CDT.


Sidney 41, Chadron 7

Sidney 14 13 14 0 - 41

Chadron 7 0 0 0 - 7

C - Naleka Sayaloune 19-yard pass from Marcus Fernandez (Naleka Sayaloune kick)

S - Alex Linneman 84-yard run (run failed)

S - Derek Robb 3-yard run (Jake Heeren run)

S - Alex Linneman 13-yard run (kick failed)

S - Jake Heeren 9-yard run (Jake Heeren kick)

S - Tyler Wintholz 20-yard pass from Brady Radcliffe (Jake Heeren kick)

S - Coby Haas 40-yard punt return (Jake Heeren kick)

Stephen McKay

Sidney's Alex Linneman reaches for a pass in the Raiders 41-7 victory over Chadron.


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