Down to their last chance, Neal Brubaker threw a strike to John Berkholz Friday to tie the football game at 58-58 against Claflin. A Brubaker pass to Nic Buller for the two-point conversion turned out to be the final points of the game, giving the Bluebirds their first victory of the season, 60-58.
The game started out as a battle between two winless teams. On the first play from scrimmage, Brubaker handed the ball to Buller for an end-around, but Buller stopped and passed the ball to Trey Schmidt for a 46-yard touchdown.
“We decided on this play to open the game early in the week and practiced it regularly,” Buller said.
Within a few seconds, Claflin had also scored and the script was written for this 8-man football game. At the end of the first quarter, Claflin led 30-14.
Alex Ross recovered a Wildcat fumble on Goessel’s 14-yard line to stop a Claflin drive and the Bluebirds scored several times to lead at halftime, 46-38. The defense held Claflin scoreless in the third period and Goessel took a 52-38 lead into the break.
In the fourth quarter, Claflin’s Benn Kirmer slashed and dashed through the Bluebird defense to actually give the Wildcats a 58-52 lead with 1 minute, 43 seconds remaining in the game. After recovering a short kickoff and not being able to muster much yardage, the Bluebirds found themselves facing a fourth down with a lot of yards to go and less than 30 seconds left in the game. Brubaker threw a perfect strike and John Berkholz ran a great route. Goessel tied the game with a 23-yard touchdown with 16 ticks left on the clock.
Goessel called a time out to set up a play for the all-important extra point. Brubaker faked a handoff and tossed a short pass to Buller to go ahead.
Claflin received the ball deep in their own territory and attempted three passes, which were all incomplete, and Goessel celebrated their first win of the season.
Although Goessel has been unable to stop the running game, coach Justin Coup praised the defense for preventing several extra points after Wildcat touchdowns, which made a huge difference in the final score.
Austin Voth and Bruce Benjamin were involved in tackles in the backfield. Berkholz was credited with 14 solo tackles with Jake Smucker tallying eight and Trey Schmidt four.
Brubaker threw for 321 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
“Clafin blitzed every time we lined up in a spread offense, but our offensive line is playing much better now picking up blocking assignments,” Brubaker said.
The linemen doing the blocking were Tyler Schulz, Joe Campbell, and Alex Ross. Buller caught 11 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Berkholz snagged eight catches for 130 yards and four touchdowns. Trey Schmidt caught five passes for one touchdown. Berkholz also ran one kickoff all the way for a score.
Goessel is now 1-3 and will head to Solomon on Friday for another district game.