RAYMOND – A slow start and costly mistakes ended in a 35-28 Raymond Central loss on Homecoming night against Nebraska City on Friday.
The Mustangs found themselves in a 15-point hole after the first half and found themselves fighting the Pioneers, the clock and themselves throughout the second half.
Nebraska City would grab the momentum early on a 71-yard pass from senior quarterback Jordan Williams to senior receiver Eli Southard.
The Pioneers score came on the second play from scrimmage, taking only a minute off the game clock.
On the ensuing drive, the Mustangs would set an unfortunate theme.
A Pioneer pass interference penalty set the Mustangs up at midfield with a fresh set of downs but two illegal procedure penalties would stall the drive.
The Pioneers looked to capitalize on the Mustangs’ mistakes and looked to have done so after a Williams 27-yard touchdown run. But the run was called back on a holding penalty and the Mustangs would make the Pioneers pay for giving them another chance.
On third and 18, Williams went back to pass to try and convert the long down and distance, only to take a blindside sack from senior linebacker Ethan Boyd.
The hit jarred the ball loose and the Mustangs would recover at their own 39-yard line.
The next Mustang drive was methodical and nearly error-free as Raymond Central nearly evened the score.
A steady dose of the Kreikemeier brothers, sophomore quarterback Conner and freshman running back Mason, with a little of sophomore running back Logan Bryce sprinkled in for flavor was the recipe for a Mustang touchdown.
The 12-play drive marched the Mustangs down until a slashing Conner Kreikemeier run from 15 yards out put Raymond Central on the board 14 seconds into the second quarter.
The Mustangs would miss the PAT, leaving the Pioneers leading by one.
Nebraska City would score touchdowns on its next two drives in the first half, another Williams pass to Southard and a 20-yard Williams run, to make the score 21-6 with just over five minutes left in the half.
Head coach Wade Houchin said that defensive breakdowns in the first half were costly.
“In the first half, quite frankly, were we were not playing our assignments in the secondary, weren’t using the technique we’re supposed to be using, and we paid for it,” Houchin said.
On the last Mustang drive before half time, the Mustangs aimed to cut the lead to one score.
Another false start penalty seemed to doom the drive but a 19-yard scamper from Conner Kreikemeier overcame the setback and set the Mustangs up in Pioneer territory.
The Nebraska City defense would tighten there though. Four plays later, the Mustangs had lost four yards and turned it over on downs leaving Nebraska City at midfield with just under two minutes in the half.
This time it was the Ne-
braska City offense that would go backwards as the Mustang defensive front pinned its ears back and finished the half with two sacks on successive plays.
The Mustangs received the ball to start the second half and penalties and dropped passes reemerged to stop the Raymond Central progress.
On the ensuing drive, Nebraska City looked to be driving. The Pioneers started at their own 30-yard line and drove down to the Mustang 39-yard line before a sack by junior John Karpov forced the Pioneers to punt the ball away.
Another long, methodical 10-play, 80 yard Mustang drive would pull them closer.
Raymond Central would stick with its previous recipe of runs by the Kreikemeiers and Bryce, and finally found success through the air.
Conner Kreikemeier finished the drive with a 9-yard run and a missed two point conversion would make it 21-12.
The Pioneers would answer on their next two drives, scoring touchdowns through the air on each, pushing the Nebraska City lead to 23 with just under 11 minutes left in the game.
Three minutes after the Nebraska City touchdown, the Mustangs would scratch back into the game.
A 3-yard Conner Kreikemeier touchdown pass to freshman Rylan Stover and a successful two-point try brought the Mustangs within 15 with almost eight minutes left.
Raymond Central’s ensuing onside kick attempt was unsuccessful but the Mustangs forced a three and out to get the ball back with around six minutes to play.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs and their Homecoming crowd, the drive would end in a Pioneer interception three plays later.
The Mustangs would force another three and out and tack on a late Conner Kreikemeier touchdown run to pull within 7, but the Mustangs ran out of time.
Another unsuccessful onside and three Nebraska City kneel downs from the victory formation later and the game was over.
“The only adjustment was just trying to get our quarterback out and the pocket so he can see some stuff and let him be an athlete,” Houchin said about the offensive difference between the two halves. “He obviously made some plays and kept drives alive and kept things going.”
The Mustangs will take their 2-2 record on the road for a rare Thursday night game versus Columbus Scotus, Sept. 26.