RAYMOND – Raymond Central lost a heart-breaker and, possibly more importantly in the long term, a two-way senior starter in its game against Falls City Friday night, Sept. 6.
Falls City senior quarterback Kade Bredemeier plunged in from two yards for the decisive touchdown with six seconds left on the clock to give the Ti-gers the 27-23 win.
The Mustangs had fought back from a 14-3 halftime deficit without key cog Mikey McCoy to take a 23-21 lead with over seven minutes left in the game.
McCoy, who scored four touchdowns in the Mustangs week one win, injured his ankle early in the second quarter.
The loss had the Mustangs scrambling as starting quarterback Conner Kreikemeier, who head coach Wade Houchin said had not practiced a snap on defense but had played safety last year, was forced into emergency duty.
Before the McCoy injury, the Mustangs struck first.
Starting a drive near midfield, Raymond Central used a 34-yard Conner Kreikemeier pass to sophomore receiver Travis Nelson and a 12-yard McCoy run to put itself at first and goal at the Falls City 8-yard line.
The drive would stall there and the Mustangs would settle for three points on freshman Rylan Stover’s field goal with over six minutes left in the first quarter.
The teams would trade possessions until a Nelson punt return set the Mustangs up in good position first and ten at the Falls City 11-yard line.
Four plays later, the Mustangs would turn the ball over on downs and McCoy would go down. The missed scoring chance and loss of McCoy would loom large in the tight game.
Falls City finally got its first score with just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Tiger drive started from their own 20-yard line, the key play a 56-yard pass from Bredemeier to senior receiver Trey McAfee to set Falls City up first and goal from the Mustang 5-yard line.
Three plays later, Bredemeier would score his first of three touchdowns on the ground to put the Tigers up 7-3.
The Mustangs next possession would start at their 28-yard line with just over a minute left in the half.
Three plays later, two incompletions and a sack, the Mustangs were punting back to the Tigers with 47 seconds left.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, it wouldn’t be the last time their inability to work a two-minute offense would come back to bite them.
The Tigers took over after the punt in Mustangs’ territory.
Bredemeier found McAfee twice through the air on the drive including the scoring play, a 24-yard strike as time expired in the half.
The Mustangs went into the locker room down 14-3.
Despite the two quick scores at the end of the half and the loss of one of its leaders, Raymond Central came back out in the second half full of fire.
A Falls City facemask penalty on the opening kickoff of the second half gave the Mustangs good field position.
A steady diet of runs by Kreikemeier and Nelson worked the Mustangs down to the Falls City eight-yard line where Nelson would cap the drive with a touchdown run around the left side.
After missing the PAT, the Mustangs cut the Tiger lead to 5 with almost nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Falls City would answer back quickly.
A strong kickoff return of their own and a Raymond Central facemask penalty of its own during the drive allowed the Tigers to push the lead back to two scores on another Bredemeier touchdown run.
Two possesions later the Mustangs would take over with the ball as the fourth quarter started.
After chipping away on the ground the Mustangs finally hit a big play through the air.
Houchin said that several drops earlier in the first half had gotten the Mustangs away from their game plan when it came to the aerial attack but were forced to go back to it trailing in the fourth quarter.
Kreikemeier found senior Ethan Boyd along the left side for a 42-yard touchdown to draw the Mustangs within four after a successful two-point try.
On the next drive the Tigers would set the Mustangs up for another big play.
A fumble recovery put the Mustangs in business on the Falls City 44-yard line.
Two plays later, the crowd and sideline erupted as junior Lucas Buresh beat the Tiger defensive back on a quick slant, shrugged off a tackle and raced 54 yards for the touchdown and a 23-21 lead.
Houchin said despite the drops, he had faith in Buresh.
“We believe in him. We believe in his ability and he made a great play,” Houchin said. “I think everybody thought that was the winning catch and the winning play.”
After forcing a punt and a turnover on downs on the next two Tiger possessions, the Mus-tangs had the ball and 2:06 left on the clock.
Falls City had all three timeouts left and Raymond Central knew that a first down would probably be enough to end the game.
They would not get it. The Mustangs turned it back over to the Tigers on downs and the Mustangs could not corral Bredemeier on the final drive.
After the Bredemeier touchdown the Mustangs got two chances at a hail mary for the win but the Tigers put the game away with an in-terception.
Houchin said the tough loss is a chance to strengthen their resolve.
“We are 100 percent about how we respond to events and this is an opportunity,” Houchin said.
The Mustangs will head to Louisville, Sept. 13 to take on the Lions (1-1).