Raiders Outlast Tigers for Homecoming Win, 42-35
Doty Again Excels in Battle of Undefeateds
September 21, 2023
Mike Motz, Sidney Sun-Telegraph
SIDNEY-- It was the type of game that the loser could take consolation by pointing out NFL Hall of Fame legendary coach Vince Lombardi's famous quote about a close loss.
"We didn't lose the game, we just ran out of time," said Lombardi.
The Mitchell Tigers can definitely say that with accuracy, as their shootout against the Red Raiders on Friday night came up short for them because of the clock running out. In the final moments of a back-and-forth game between unbeaten teams, Sidney made just one more big play, which turned out to be the difference in a game that was an instant classic.
Ironically, the game started with the Tigers receiving the ball and going three-and-out, and the Raiders following suit on their first possession. But the vaunted Mitchell offensive line and the Tiger's threesome of seniors Cael Peters and Santi Castillo and junior Dez Smith found their groove on their next possession, going on a sustained drive while their backs chewed up yardage. The Sidney defense bent, and had trouble containing the Tiger's counter-run plays. The Raiders did a good job preventing big plays, but couldn't stop the Tiger's offense. Mitchell cashed in on a goal-to-go run, and led 7-to-0.
Senior running back Luke Holly returned the ensuing kickoff to the 50 yard line. Sidney then gained two first downs, ending the first quarter on the Mitchell 25 yard line. The combination of senior quarterback Isak Doty and Holly brought the ball down to the five yard line, where the Mitchell defense stiffened. Sidney head coach Ryan Smith opted to go for the touchdown on fourth and goal at the five yard line, and Doty was able to find sophomore Keian Kaiser alone in the end zone for a five yard touchdown score, and the Raiders tied up the game at 7-to-7. Mitchell started their next drive on the 20 yard line, and again methodically drove down the field, their running game picking up chunks of yardage on almost every carry, but the Sidney defense again contained the big play. The Tigers drove deep into Raider territory and ran the ball in, going up 14-to-7. With around two minutes left in the half, Sidney started a drive, and on third down, Doty connected with sophomore Lance Holly on a crossing pattern. Holly was able to evade two tacklers around mid-field and then outrace the Tiger defensive backfield to the end zone for an 80 yard touchdown, leaving the score knotted at 14-to-14 at the halftime break.
Sidney received the ball to start the second half, and after gaining a first down, Doty ran a read-option play where a big part of the defense went after Holly while Doty kept the ball. Doty was able to go through the middle and past the linebackers, then cut left upfield and outran the Tiger's backfield for a 50 yard touchdown, and Sidney led 21-to-14. Mitchell started their first drive of the second half on their own 37 yard line, and after a first down, was forced to punt. Their offense was clearly affected by Cael Peters' leg injury in the second quarter. He was able to re-enter the game and played the rest of the contest, but was limited in his role running the ball. Sidney took over on their own 15 yard line, and after gaining a first down, Doty threw another great pass, this one for 36 yards to his brother, Alek Doty. But following an illegal procedure penalty, Doty tried to throw on the run, had his pass picked off by senior Ace Hobbs, and the Tigers had the ball at their own 25 yard line. Again the Tigers methodically moved the ball down the field, adding in a few short passes to their rushing attack, and cashed in for a rushing touchdown to tie the score at 21-to-21.
Once again, Luke Holly had a great return, taking the ball out to the Sidney 40 yard line, but a holding call on the play brought the ball back to the Sidney 16 yard line. Another penalty on a Doty run and two incomplete passes later, the second being to junior Landon Riddle who was clearly hit before the ball arrived, eliciting shocked reactions from the no-call by the Sidney sideline, the crowd in attendance, and even some of the Mitchell players Sidney faced a third down at the 10 yard line. Luke Holly took the ball and darted left, then went up the middle and out-sprinted the Tiger defense for a 90 yard touchdown. Isak Doty missed the extra point kick, and the Sidney lead was six at 27-to-21. Mitchell started their next drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter on their own 28 yard line, and kept relying on their running attack to gain first downs. The Tigers finally broke a big play when Dez Smith broke down the left sideline for a 38 yard touchdown run, and with a successful extra point attempt, the Tigers led 28-to-27.
Sidney wasted no time striking back, when on their next possession, Doty again connected with Alek Doty, and this time the younger Doty trucked 58 yards for a touchdown. Doty completed a two-point pass to Kaiser, giving Sidney a 35-to-28 lead. However, there was still eight minutes left to play, and Mitchell started their drive on the 19 after a holding penalty on the kick. Sticking to their script, the Tigers ran the ball and tried a few passes to keep Sidney guessing. The Tigers kept moving the ball, and Peters tried a long pass from the Raider 42 yard line to the end zone. Isak Doty drew a bead on the throw and had it in his hands, but could not hold on for the interception. A completed pass and a few runs later, Smith was able to get in the end zone, this time with an eight yard run that tied the score at 35-to-35 with 2:29 left to play.
Holly ran back the Tiger kick off to the Sidney 33 yard line. On first down, Holly broke out a big run for 22 yards. Two plays later, Doty again fooled the Tiger defense with the read-option play, pulling the ball away from Holly at the last second and bursting up the middle. Doty was able to get past the second line of defenders, and it became a footrace with the defensive backs, one that Doty, who placed fourth in both the 100 Meters and 200 Meters in last year's NSAA Class B State Championships, was not going to lose. The 45 yard touchdown dash and extra point gave Sidney a 42-to-35 lead with less than 90 seconds left to play.
The Mitchell Tiger team had responded to every Sidney score with long, methodical rush-heavy drives taking up big chunks of the clock all game long, but now with little time remaining, had to rely on their passing game. After starting at their own 41 yard line, Peters was able to complete a pass for a first down. But on the next set of plays, a short run was followed by two incomplete passes. On fourth down and 6, Peters just got the ball away when he was hit hard by senior McGuire Rolls and his pass fell incomplete. Sidney got the ball back, took a knee, and the clock ran out for a spectacular Red Raider win. The Sidney Homecoming crowd was elated, and stayed after the game for the Homecoming Festivities, including seniors Isak Doty and Chloe Ahrens being crowned Homecoming King and Queen.
Doty had another tremendous game, completing 6-of-11 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed 12 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns, and had nine total tackles on defense. Luke Holly rushed 10 times for 132 yards and a touchdown. Sophomores Alek Doty, Lance Holly and Keian Kaiser each had a touchdown reception in the win. Sidney rushed for 287 yards while Mitchell rushed for 345 yards.
Sidney gets its first district matchup on Friday as they travel to take on the McCook Bison. McCook enters the contest with a 2-and-2 record, with close losses to Gothenburg and Broken Bow, and big wins over Cozad and Holdrege. Although McCook is not very flashy on offense, they can move the ball well and score. They have a strong defense that is very good at stopping the run, and should test Doty and Holly. Sidney is tested and well-prepared for their run into district play to close out the season. Getting a win under their belts against McCook will go a long way for the Raiders when facing Chadron, Ogallala and Alliance in the coming weeks.