SENECA — While defense dominated the first half, offense settled the score between Humboldt and Nemaha Central on Friday night in the sectional round of the 2A state playoffs. After a scoreless opening two quarters, Humboldt’s offense rallied for 28 second-half points, but was unable to keep pace with the Thunder, losing 44-28.
Conor Haviland left every ounce of blood, sweat and tears in his final game on the gridiron in the orange and black. Offensively, Haviland earned 317 yards of total offense along with four touchdowns. Defensively, he recorded 15 tackles along with an interception.
?He wanted it,? Cub head coach Logan Wyrick said. ?It was almost too much at times, but you can?t fault him for that. All of the guys left it out there tonight.?
Humboldt received the opening kickoff, and from the get-go, Nemaha focused its attention on Haviland. Two consecutive plays to start the drive, Humboldt?s senior quarterback was dragged to the ground in the backfield, and ultimately forced to punt it away.
The Cubs forced Nemaha into an early turnover after senior Gunner Elder recovered the loose ball to set up the Cubs with early field position. Once again, the Cubs failed to gain any momentum offensively, and handed possession back over to the Thunder, who found the end zone for six. Humboldt forced two more Thunder turnovers in the first half courtesy of interceptions from Haviland and Drake Harrington. Still, Humboldt struggled for any offensive momentum.
Heading into halftime, Humboldt trailed 6-0.
Humboldt High?s Josh Hull (71) sacks the Nemaha Central quarterback Friday in the Cubs? 44-28 loss. REGISTER/ERICK MITCHELL
?I think we?ve relied on our speed a little bit too much throughout the year by trying to get to the outside,? Wyrick said. ?We were trying to get to the edge early on, but couldn?t do that. We had a little bit more success in the first half when we ran downhill, and got into out power run game.?
Nemaha Central opened the second half with a score to take a 14-0 lead. Humboldt responded with a touchdown of its own. Haviland broke free for a 48-yard touchdown scamper to bring the Cubs within eight.
The Thunder roared back to reclaim their two-possession lead, to which the Cubs responded once more, this time through the air. Haviland hooked up with senior wide receiver Jackson Aikins for a 71-yard touchdown pass to make the score 22-14.
Nemaha added its third touchdown of the third quarter with :56 left on the clock to increase its lead to 30-14, but Humboldt refused to back down. On third-and-long after taking two plays off for a quick breather, Haviland found Kyle Kobold for the 14-yard touchdown pass. After the failed 2-point conversion, Humboldt trailed 30-20.
Although the Cub defense flourished in the first half, its second-half struggles continued in the final period. Nemaha executed a long, methodical drive to take a 36-20 lead with 5:56 left to play. Haviland found the end zone with 4:43 left to play on a 7-yard touchdown run, but the Thunder sealed the deal with another score late in the fourth.
?I think we had guys trying to make plays, knowing we need the ball, and I think guys may have been tried too much,? Wyrick said. ?We keep preaching do your jobs, and you can?t fault guys for over-efforts, but sometimes that?s what we have to do.?
After a perfect 10-0 start, Humboldt?s season finishes 10-1 and 2A sectional runner-up.