Rosebud-Lott dodged a late, game-winning field goal try and survived a last-minute Riesel comeback, clipping the Indians, 14-13.
Rosebud-Lott (3-6, 2-2 District 13-2A Division I) won its first district game since beating Thrall, and it came at a time when the Cougars needed it most. Head coach Brad Ballard’s team is now heading back to the playoffs.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” he said. “We won the games that we needed to to get us there. Our record may not seem very pretty at 3-6, but we did what we needed to do.”
It wasn’t a tidy affair, as the weather nixed any sort of passing game for either side.
Riesel (2-7, 1-3) scored quickly on its first drive. Indians quarterback Steven Searcy threw a 39-yard pass to running back Gus Mulsow, the only completion of the game for both teams. Then Searcy found room to the outside from 13 yards out, putting Riesel up 7-0 with only 2:30 off the clock.
Riesel started taking control. The Indians defense forced a three-and-out and running back Sabion Kubitza capped a seven-play drive with a three-yard touchdown. A blocked extra point led to Rosebud-Lott being down 13 in a hurry.
Things looked even bleaker when the Cougars, after a muffed punt, handed the ball over to Riesel at the Cougar 19. But Rosebud-Lott’s defense made the biggest play of the game, forcing and recovering a Steven Searcy fumble.
The Cougars then promptly marched 81 yards on nine plays, as quarterback Jason Mallory ran in from two yards out. Rosebud-Lott added a two-point conversion trail five at the half.
Ballard could sense the momentum shifting sides.
“Towards the end of the first half, we seemed to find out a little abut about what they were doing defensively,” Ballard said.
The score was 13-8 halfway into the fourth quarter until the Cougars put themselves up for good.
On 3rd-and-15 from the Riesel 40, quarterback Jason Mallory darted around the left side, glided down the sideline and found paydirt untouched. A missed extra point saw Rosebud-Lott find their first lead of the game at 14-13.
“It was just a sweep really,” Mallory said. “I was going to go all out no matter what on that play and get to the end zone.”
A series of punts followed and Riesel gave itself a chance to win with 14 seconds left, but a Julio Garcia 33-yard field goal floated wide left, giving the Cougars their first playoff berth under hometown hero Brad Ballard’s two-year reign.
“I’m from Rosebud-Lott, so it was good to come home and give this community this win,” he said. “They’re hungry for a playoff appearance. It wasn’t pretty, but they’ll sure take it.”