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Raiders Rise Above Miscues, Down Chase County 21-to-14

IMPERIAL-- Sidney's Red Raider Football team improved their season record to 2-and-0 with a 21-to-14 victory over the Chase County Longhorns in Imperial on Friday night, September 1. After defeating Holdrege in the first game of the season, and having to travel to and from the game twice in two days due to weather delays, in this game Sidney created all of their own adversity, with weather and travel time having nothing to do with the challenges the Red Raiders had to overcome to earn the victory.

The game started with about 20 mph winds blowing, with hot and humid conditions. After Sidney won the coin toss and elected to kick, the Longhorns received the kick and started their first drive on their own 26 yard line. On their first play, the Longhorns turned the ball over, a low snap causing the fumble. Sidney recovered the ball and started on the Chase County 16 yard line. Senior Luke Holly took the hand off and hit the outside, turned the corner and chugged 16 yards for a touchdown. Senior Isak Doty's extra point kick was good, and Sidney had a quick 7-to-0 lead.

After receiving Sidney's kick, the Longhorns started at their own 30 yard line, and went nowhere, forcing a punt by senior Cooper Dillan. Dillan's punts were one of the few highlights for the Chase County team. After a good kick, Sidney started on their own 23. On second down, senior quarterback Isak Doty scrambled to pass, had the ball come out of his hand when he tried to pump fake, and the ball was snagged out of the air by Longhorn junior Tristan Jablonski who ran it in for a Longhorn touchdown, and the score was tied at 7-to-7.

On the next Sidney drive, Doty was again picked off on an under-thrown pass, and the Longhorns took over at midfield. But again the Sidney defense shut the Longhorns down, forcing another Dillan punt, this one being down at the Sidney four yard line. This time it was Chase County's defense shutting down Sidney's offense, forcing a Doty punt, and the Longhorns took over near midfield. On the second play of the drive, junior Kole Clevenger reeled in a pass for 34 yards, setting up the Longhorns near the Sidney 20 yard line. On second down, Doty picked off a pass in the end zone, and started to return the ball. He cut across the field and crossed the 15 yard line when he was hit, fumbling the ball. Chase County recovered on the 16 yard line , gaining a fresh set of downs. On the next play, junior wide receiver Luis Co grabbed a pass in the end zone for a touchdown, and Chase County jumped ahead 14-to-7.

It was clear that Sidney was the better team, with their defense mostly stopping the Longhorns, and their offense able to run on the Chase County defense, but Sidney's turnovers were stopping any momentum they could build. Both teams were having a tough time holding onto the ball, with the teams combining for five turnovers in the first quarter alone. On their next drive, the Raiders started with decent field position, but a holding call brought them back to start on their own 22 yard line. The drive ended when Doty failed to see wide open sophomore Keian Kaiser, and threw an incompletion, forcing a punt. After the Longhorns started at midfield, they started to drive, gained a first down, but then fumbled the ball away on a third down run. On the first play of the drive, Doty faked a hand off to Holly, kept it himself, got around the corner on the right side and outran the Longhorn defense for a 78 yard touchdown. Doty's extra point kick was wide to the left, and the Raiders trailed 14-to-13. Sidney then held the Longhorns after they gained a couple of first downs, and Dillan again hit a great punt, downing the ball at the Sidney one yard line. Sidney quickly got out from under the shadow of their own goal posts with a 19 yard run by Holly on first down, followed by a run by Doty on the second down. The runners alternated turns for the drive, rushing for chunks at a time. On the 11th play of the drive, a second and goal from the Longhorn 3 yard line, the snap went through Doty's hands, and Chase County recovered the ball on the 12 yard line, stopping the Sidney drive.

On Chase County's second play, junior Landon Riddle intercepted a Longhorn pass, and Sidney started deep in Longhorn territory. It seemed that Sidney would finally take control of the game when the Raiders had the ball near the goal line, but could not get the ball into the end zone. On fourth down with three seconds left in the half, rather than going for the short field goal to take the lead, Head Coach Ryan Smith called for Doty to run from shotgun position, deep in the backfield, rather that having him take the ball from under center and run up the middle. Doty received the snap and tried to power through the line, but was stopped short of the goal line, giving the ball back to Chase County and scoring no points. The halftime gun sounded with Sidney dominating the game, but trailing 14-to-13.

Sidney received the ball to start the second half, and started a long drive. On the eighth play of the drive, Doty threw another interception on an under-thrown pass, and the Longhorns got the ball on the Sidney 31 yard line. On third down and nine, Chase County benefitted from a controversial call by the referees when Grant Smircich was called for pass interference on an incomplete pass. It was clear to nearly everyone watching that the Chase County receiver was actually guilty of the infraction, but the call stood and Chase County got another set of downs deep in Sidney territory. It did not matter as Chase County went backwards, losing 18 yards on a bad snap on one play, and were finally faced with a fourth down and 31 yards to go. Dillan punted and, once again, the ball was downed at the Sidney 1 yard line.

Sidney did not move the ball much in this drive, and Doty was forced to punt. The Longhorns took over near mid-field again, and were able to drive the ball. But miscues stalled the drive, and Sidney took over on downs on their own 17 yard line. 16 plays later, on second and goal with a little over five minutes left to play, a miscommunication between Holly and Doty on a hand off led to a fumble, which was recovered by Chase County on their own five yard line. The game seemed firmly within Sidney's grasp only to have it slip through their fingers at the last moment. But these Raiders had no quit in them, and their defense rallied to stop the Longhorns. Sidney's pressure was able to get the Longhorns in a fourth and 32, and Dillan punted. Dillan's punt was a line drive, and Lance Holly decided not to attempt to catch the ball, which turned out to be a mistake. The ball took a big Chase County bounce, rolling all the way down to the Sidney 20 yard line--a 74 yard punt.

Sidney started their drive and needed to move down the field quickly. Doty found Riddle down the middle for a big connection of 47 yards, and got the Raiders within striking distance. Sidney got down to the one yard line, and then on the next play had a loss of 8 yards. With just a few seconds left in the game, Sidney faced a third down and goal on the nine yard line. Doty scrambled in the backfield to pass, and eventually threw back across the field and found his brother, sophomore Alec Doty in the end zone for a touchdown. Doty then threw again to Riddle for the two-point conversion and Sidney now held a 21-to-14 lead with ten seconds left. Chase County could only fire off two incomplete passes in the final seconds, and Sidney escaped with the 21-to-14 victory.

Good teams are able to overcome adversity out of their control, while great players are able to overcome their own mistakes, and make just one more great play to earn a victory. Isak Doty was able to shake off the miscues and bad passes to make just one more great play, which nullified all of the mistakes and bad plays earlier in the game. His scramble and throw across his body to the opposite side of the field for a touchdown can likely be a defining moment for this team early on in the season. Doty and his teammates seem to be developing the mentality of focusing on the next play, rather than dwelling on the previous play. This was a game that Sidney dominated, and only through mistakes did the Longhorns even hang around in the game. A good takeaway is that the Raiders are able to overcome their own mistakes and close out a game. A better takeaway could be that a strong offensive team like Chase County needed six Sidney turnovers to even stay in the game against the Red Raiders.

Doty completed 9-of-16 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted three times. He rushed 25 times for 181 yards and a touchdown, and Luke Holly also rushed 25 times, for 133 yards and a touchdown. Landon Riddle caught four passes for 76 yards. The teams combined for ten turnovers, six by Sidney and four by Chase County. Sidney has their home opener on Friday, hosting the 0-and-2 Gordon-Rushville Mustangs. The Mustangs were blanked 43-to-0 in their opener against Chadron, then lost to Alliance 24-to-20 on Thursday, August 31. Game time at Weymouth Field in Sidney is 6 p.m.


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