Amateur football: Huskerz clinch home-field advantage in league playoffs
WORTHINGTON — Any team in the Southern Plains Football League that hopes to make the national championship game will have to come through Worthington to do so.
The Southwest Huskerz saw to that Saturday when they wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the league playoffs — which begin on June 28 — with a 42-12 victory over the Buffalo Ridge Wildcats.
“(It’s an especially good feeling) with this being our first year,” said Huskerz wide receiver Trae Johnson, who racked up more than 160 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. “It will be hard for another team to come here and beat us. When we’re at home, we don’t let up on the gas and we always play hard.”
Huskerz head coach Ken McCuen said coming into the season, his team split the season into four phases. The first two were games 1-4 and 5-8 of the regular season. The initial goals for the squad were to go 4-0 during each of those phases. So far it has accomplished one and is halfway to completing the second.
“Our record speaks for itself,” McCuen said. “The players on this team are tremendous. It’s a great feeling to be 6-0, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Southwest’s sixth straight win got out to a slow start Saturday when it was tied 6-6 at the end of the first quarter. A 35-yard touchdown run by Darieon Smith put the Huskerz on top 6-0, but the Wildcats answered quickly with a 32-yard strike from Samuel Lindgren to Brett Delaney that knotted the score.
“I think things went good for the most part,” Huskerz linebacker Jordan Bouw said. “We had some problems with miscommunication and gave up some big plays. But, in the second half I thought our d-line really got after it.”
Huskerz quarterback Jordan Larson and Johnson hooked up for the first of two big touchdown passes early in the second quarter. Larson gave a good pump fake and hit Johnson in stride down the left sideline for a 54-yard scoring strike that, eventually, gave Southwest a 12-6 lead at halftime.
Coming out of the break, the Huskerz seemed to play with a whole new purpose.
They gained some breathing room on Smith’s second of three touchdown runs on the day; this one from 20 yards out, on the first possession of the half. But Buffalo Ridge had one more big play up its sleeve.
Lindgren found Jake Lindgren for a 64-yard catch and run that got the Wildcats deep into Huskerz territory. It also set up their second and final scoring play of the day that got them back to within a single score, down 20-12.
From there it was all Huskerz. Smith ripped off a 50-yard touchdown run with 4:12 in the third and a pass to Jay Miller on the conversion attempt was completed. The score put the Huskerz up 28-12 going to the fourth. Along with his three touchdowns, Smith had 286 yards on the ground, putting him over the 1,000-yard milestone in only six games.
“The offensive line has done a good job all year,” Smith said. “They’ve made it easy for me. You can say that you have to be a good running back to have 1,000 yards in six games. Well, you’re not going to do that without a good offensive line.”
Larson added a rushing TD in the fourth and hooked up with Johnson one more time from 32 yards out to bring the game to its final.
Huskerz 6 6 16 14 — 42
Wildcats 6 0 6 0 — 12