|Gering finds the zone for victory over Alliance|
|October 20, 2011 Terry Gaston|
Photo by Spectrum Photo Gering senior Danny O'Boyle (No. 15) looks for a seam among his Bulldog blockers and Alliance defenders during Friday's District B-8 and Homecoming contest at Memorial Stadium. O'Boyle and his fellow s
Years from now, when members of this class of Gering High School seniors return to Memorial Stadium for Homecoming football games and others, undoubtedly many eyes will initially turn toward the east end of the south end zone.
From Zach Smith’s third-quarter end zone interception to Mark Pieper’s game-clinching touchdown in the fourth period on fourth down, many memories were created at the south end of the field for the Bulldogs in their 17-7 victory over Alliance in a key District B-6 game.
“It was fun to watch,” said first-year Gering coach Jimmie Rhodes, whose team (4-4) broke a four-game losing streak and evened its district record at 1-1. “The guys competed all week and it’s a credit to the guys who kept fighting. We played great defense, and it’s awesome to see our guys step up. It was a complete football game.”
Gering was outgained offensively 310 yards to 250 but kept Alliance (5-3 overall, 1-1 district) scoreless for nearly 3-1/2 quarters and held the visitors’ passing game to just 4 of 16 completions for 111 yards.
Gering led 10-0 at halftime, with all 10 points coming in the second quarter. Smith set up the Bulldogs at the Alliance 40-yard line with a 30-yard punt return late in the first quarter.
Nine plays later, senior quarterback Dillon DeMott rolled right and found senior Danny O’Boyle open in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass, and sophomore Gage Smith connected on the extra point.
Gage Smith gave Gering a 10-point lead with a 23-yard field goal with 32 seconds left in the first half, with the Bulldogs settling for the 3-pointer after Pieper had a 6-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty that Rhodes was still wondering Sunday after watching the video and seeing no infraction.
After Gering spared Alliance just 26 offensive yards in the second quarter, Zach Smith played a big role in keeping that zero on Alliance’s side of the scoreboard with the visiting Bulldogs having completed a 47-yard pass to reach the Gering 15-yard line in the third quarter.
Two plays later, Alliance junior quarterback Isaac Burnham rolled to his left and thought he had one of his Bulldog teammates open in the end zone. Instead, it was a blue-jersey Bulldog, Smith, who ended Alliance’s threat with a gift of an interception.
“I didn’t expect to pick it, I just centered up to knock it down and save the touchdown,” said Smith, who also controlled Alliance’s field position with four punts for a 43.3-yard average.
Alliance finally got a big play against the otherwise stingy Gering defense when Burnham connected with senior Kyle Sanders on a 40-yard pass play to put the visiting Bulldogs at the GHS 40.
Junior Mitch Pancost, the game’s leading rusher with 169 yards on 26 carries, went 29 yards on his fourth straight carry afterward, a reverse that pulled Alliance to within 10-7 with 6:32 remaining.
Then on Gering’s next drive and facing a swarming Alliance defense on third-and-2, DeMott found O’Boyle open just a few yards downfield and the senior standout turned the play into a 25-yard gain to the Alliance 35.
“I just ran my route and it opened up the hole, and Dillon tossed to me and I just ran with it,” said O’Boyle, who had four catches for 44 yards and was later named Homecoming king.
A holding penalty dropped Gering back to the 45, but a 15-yard DeMott-to-O’Boyle pass got the Bulldogs to fourth-and-3 at the Alliance 28.
Then Pieper sealed his 28-carry, 147-yard rushing night with a play that will likely be remembered as much for his mid-play stop as it will for his crossing the goal line with 2:34 remaining.
Pieper ran left, took a quick pause to find the alley created by his blockers, and rushed 28 yards seemingly effortless into the end zone.
“We had been running inside the tackle all night long,” Rhodes said. “Mark cut back inside after their outside linebacker was hit with a stalk block, and there were four guys to the left that left a void. Mark stuck his feet into the ground, went vertical and he was gone. We just wanted a first down to run it out.”
Instead, the hearts of a hungry pack of Bulldogs were reflected and a hard-fought, long-awaited victory was much sweeter to celebrate.
“This is a phenomenal group of kids, they have done everything I’ve asked them to do, week by week, and it showed tonight,” Rhodes said.
DeMott completed 7 of 14 passes for 87 yards with the TD pass to O’Boyle. Senior Dillon Wademan followed O’Boyle’s 44-yard reception total with 43 on three catches.
Defensively, Wademan had six solo and six assisted tackles with two tackles for 8 lost yards, and senior Avery Petit also had six solo and six assisted tackles. Junior Austin Ferguson added three solo and five assisted tackles, and junior Nick Chitwood had five solo and two assisted tackles.
Junior Jake Rexus had a third-quarter fumble recovery, while Britsch, O’Boyle and Zach Smith had a pass break-up apiece in addition to Smith’s interception.
Gering is listed as being the No. 10 ranked team in Class B, which would put the Bulldogs into the 16-team playoffs. Rhodes, however, had only one game in mind: the season finale at Sidney (1-7 overall, 0-2 district), which lost at home to Scottsbluff 49-6.
“We’re going to play Gering football (this) week,” Rhodes said.~
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