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Despite Delay, Raiders Roll Over Dusters, 32-23

Doty has Four TD Rushes, Defense Picks Off 3 in Impressive Opening Win

HOLDREGE, NE -- Sidney Football Head Coach Ryan Smith said a few weeks back that it was good to get this season's furthest away game, all the way out in Holdrege, out of the way early. He didn't count on having to make the nearly 8-hour round-trip twice in two days. But a heavy thunderstorm with lightning kept the opening matchup for the two teams from happening Friday night, so the game was postponed until 4 p.m. MT on Saturday. The Raiders left Holdrege Friday night and returned to Sidney in the early hours of the morning, only to grab a few hours of sleep and get back on the bus to travel to Holdrege again.

Any "bus lag" the Red Raider players might have felt was not enough to counter the adrenaline and excitement of the season opener, against a tough opponent that always seems to give the Raiders trouble. The Sidney squad played sharp and physical football from the opening whistle. Although Holdrege was able to connect on a few big plays to stay in the game, it was apparent early on that the Raiders had an edge on the Dusters on both the offensive and defensive lines in this contest.

Holdrege started the game with the ball, and they capitalized on two big plays to get down deep into Sidney territory. As the Dusters drew closer, however, the Raiders defense stiffened. On a third down and seven play deep in Sidney territory, Holdrege senior quarterback Beau Jensen was sacked by Sidney senior Cole Hanley for a four yard loss. Holdrege was able to connect on a 22 yard field goal on fourth down, giving them a short-lived 3-to-0 lead, their only lead of the game.

After receiving the ensuing kickoff, the Red Raiders started on their own 35 yard line, and methodically drove down the field. Senior quarterback Isak Doty and senior running back Luke Holly alternated turns running the ball, gaining big chunks of yardage, with Holly delivering punishing blows to any Holdrege defender unlucky enough to try to tackle the 6'1" 195 pounder. Doty was able to connect on a few passes on this drive, and smartly threw the ball away when he had no open targets. The Red Raiders found themselves in a fourth and three situation at the Duster's 30 yard line, then were pushed back five yards on a false start. On fourth and eight, Doty connected with Holly for a 21 yard pass down to the Holdrege 14 yard line. After two Holly runs brought Sidney a little closer, on third down Doty faked a pitch to Holly, then took the ball himself around the left side and broke through for a touchdown run. It was the first of four rushing TD's for Doty on the day. The Raiders missed a two point conversion when Doty overthrew junior Patrick McCartney, and held a 6-to-3 lead.

Holdrege was stuffed by the Raider defense on the next possession, and the Duster's punt attempt failed as the snap went over the punter's head and into the end zone. The punter was able to recover the ball and scramble, but was tackled on the Holdrege 11 yard line, where Sidney took over. On their second play of the drive, Doty lofted a great pass over the defensive end and into the hands of Patrick McCartney for another touchdown. This time Doty ran for the the two-point extra point attempt and converted, giving Sidney a 14-to-3 lead. On Holdrege's next possession, they hit with another big play, a 35 yard pass completion that would have been a touchdown if Sidney senior Grant Smircich didn't connect on a score-saving tackle. Holdrege drove deep, but turned the ball over on downs on the Sidney 14 yard line.

Sidney was forced to punt on their next possession, but Jensen threw an interception to junior Landon Riddle on the first play of their drive. The Raiders were driving again when Doty was unable to handle a shotgun-snap, and Jensen was able to recover the ball and bring it all the way for a Duster touchdown, moving the score to 14-to-10. Sidney then went on a long drive in the last minutes of the second quarter that ended with another Doty run from the four yard line for a touchdown, moving the score to 20-to-10 at the half.

Sidney started with the ball in the second half. They had a long drive to open the action, but were forced to punt. Around this time, multiple players from both teams started experiencing leg cramps from the humid weather. Holdrege punted again, and the next Sidney drive resulted in a two yard Doty TD plunge up the middle. The Raiders were firmly in control, up 26-to-10. On the next possession, Holdrege finally connected with a long pass, as a few were earlier thrown with receivers wide open, but unable to reel in the ball. This time they completed a 33 yard touchdown pass and narrowed the Sidney lead to 26-to-16. In the fourth quarter, Sidney methodically ran the ball on their possessions to drain the clock. By the time Holdrege got the ball back, time was waning, and the Dusters finally put together a long drive that resulted in a touchdown, and narrowed the Sidney lead to 26-to-23. However, the Duster team that stayed in the game with a few big plays was undone by the long and sustained drive. Trailing with time running out, the Dusters were forced to try an onside kick, which was recovered by Sidney at midfield. A few plays later, Doty finally broke open a 53 yard touchdown run, and took a 32-to-23 lead. Many times during the game, both Doty and Holly seemed about to break off a long run, and it finally happened at the best possible time. Holdrege had too little time to mount a final drive, and the Raiders came away with the win, 32-to-23.

Sidney's victory broke a losing streak to Holdrege, winning for the first time against the Dusters since 2013. Doty was the star of the game, rushing 30 times for 182 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. Sidney snagged three interceptions in total to stymie the Holdrege offense. The Raiders looked good in their opener, overcoming two long bus rides with inspired and physical play. The lines dominated on both sides, and besides a few coverage lapses and long snap mistakes on passes and extra point kick attempts, the Red Raiders look to be in mid-season form and hope be able to carry this momentum through their next game against Chase County in Imperial on Friday. The Longhorns drubbed Alliance 38-to-8 in their opener, so this should be a good test for the Red Raiders to see how they stack up against one of the tougher opponents on this year's schedule.


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