A block. A foot. And a drop.
That is what led to Bowman County knocking off the fourth-ranked team in the state Friday (Sept. 4) with a too-close 21-20 upset in the regional opener for the Bulldogs on their home field.
The block was in the third quarter when an extra-point attempt failed and left the visiting Titans with a 20-14 lead.
The foot was in the final minutes when the Titan defense nearly scored a safety when they almost tackled Bulldog quarterback Quaid Lardy in the end zone. The ball was placed inside the one-yard line.
The drop was on the Titans' final possession when a pass in the end zone was nearly intercepted by Teigen Marmon.
Those three big plays helped the Bulldogs come from behind in the fourth quarter when Clay Heimer caught a pass to tie the game with 8:49 left in the game. The extra point gave the Bulldogs their winning margin.
With just over a minute left, the Titans tried to get the lead back on a fourth down pass into the end zone, put it fell incomplete and was nearly intercepted.
The win gave the Bulldogs their first regional win, knocked off an undefeated team and improved their record to 3-0 for the season.
The team will be on the road Friday (Sept. 11) when they visit Killdeer for a 6 p.m. contest. The Cowboys easily beat Southern McLean Friday by a 34-0 margin, while New Salem also stayed unbeaten with a 44-8 victory over Heart River.
The next home game for the Bulldogs will be Sept. 18 against Southern McLean.
The Bulldogs got off to a fast start in the first quarter, scoring twice to take a 14-0 lead over the visitors.
Caleb Duffield scored first, beating double coverage in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown grab with 6:06 left in the opening quarter. The extra point by Mace Stuber was good, giving the hosts an early 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs struck again with Duffield grabbing a 22-yard pass with 29 seconds left in the first quarter. Stuber's extra-point was good, giving the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.
But the momentum changed in the second quarter as the Titans rode to legs of their senior running back Natheniel Jilek,
Jilek scored the Titan's first touchdown of the night with 8:59 left in the first half. The extra point, cut the Bowman County lead to 14-7.
The Titans scored again with 3:13 left when quarterback Jake Daniel hit receiver Nick Deschamp with a pass in the end zone. The extra point tied the score.
The Bulldogs started a drive but ran out of time deep in Trinity territory.
A last-second pass to Duffield along the sideline was broken up with the Bulldog receiver asking for interference to be called on the Trinity defender for grabbing his arm as he was going up for the pass.
Titans take lead
In the second half, the Titans took the lead when Logan Bentz pulled down a short pass at the goal line and squeaked in with 6:04 showing on the clock in the third quarter.
But the key play came next, when the Bulldogs blocked the extra-point, giving the Titans only a six-point lead.
The Titans started another drive only to have Jilek fumble the ball in Bulldog territory and Duffield recovering the fumble.
The visitors held onto the lead into the final quarter, when the hosts started another drive.
Jilek was tackled on a fourth down play in the fourth quarter, giving the Bulldogs the ball on the 23 yard line.
A pass to Clay Heimer gave the Bulldogs the tying score with 7:52 on the clock.
But it was the extra point moments later gave the team its winning margin.
The Bulldogs still had to hold off the Titans before they could claim the win.
In the final minutes, the Bulldogs were plagued by penalties, including a holding penalty which erased a 15-yard run by Duffield and moved the ball deep into the red zone.'
The next play had the Titans sack the Bulldogs' quarterback inside the one-yard line, barely avoiding a safety.
On the next play, Duffield broke through the Titan defenders out to the 20-yard line.
A short punt set up the Titans inside Bulldog territory.
On a fourth and three play with 1:01 left in the game, the Titan quarterback tried one last time to hit a receiver in the end zone only to see him fall and the hopes for a miracle finish fall at the same time.
Injuries, penalties hamper
The Bulldogs had to make some adjustments throughout the game when injuries put some of their top players on the sidelines.
“We had guys from about the nine minute mark of the second half playing out of position,” Bowman County coach Nick Walker said after the game. “We had guys step up.... and as a coach, that is what you want.
“Sam Andrews, Riggs Rotenberger and Hunter Rasmussen – two freshmen and a sophomore – stepped up and played,” he explained.
The key play of the game was Duffield's big run from inside the one-yard line late in the game, the coach said.
Walker also praised his young quarterback. “In his first big start, he played amazing.
“I am just overjoyed for our kids,” the coach added.
“Our seniors led us. I couldn't be happier with our team.”
Jilek gets 146 yards
Daniels had 142 yards passing for the Titans and threw for two scores. Jilek finished the game rushing for 146 yards on 36 carries, with one score.
Bentz caught five passes for 102 yards and a score. Dechamp had three catches for 40 yards and a score.
Lardy threw for 197 yards, while Duffield was one-for-one passing for 25 yards and a score.
Duffield caught nine passes for 133 yards, while Heimer had two catches for 33 yards and a score.
Colby Schaff led the Bulldogs on the ground with six carries for 38 yards, while Duffield has 33 yards on three carries and Lardy had eight yards. Brody Headley was held to six yards on the evening.