It was the Gannon Cleveland show in Belleville Friday night.
The senior tailback performed well on both sides of the ball in Minneapolis’s 20-6 victory on the road against Republic County.
Cleveland was a workhorse, recording 33 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a sack on defense.
Minneapolis started the game hot and took its first drive deep into Buffalo territory. The offense stalled, though, and turned it over on downs. Unfortunately for Republic County, Brody Boyer, the starting quarterback, was injured making a play on defense just a few minutes into the game. He left the game and did not return.
As a result, junior Trey Melton took the reins of the Buffalo offense. On Republic County’s first offensive play, Jonathan Dyke lost a fumble, and Minneapolis took right back over in the redzone. A few plays later, Weston Schrader powered in a four-yard rushing score to give the Lions a 6-0 lead with 3:35 left in the first quarter.
The rest of the first half consisted of missed opportunities for both offenses. Minneapolis kept threatening in and around the redzone in the second quarter but couldn’t come up with a big play. Republic County put together around a 75-yard drive late in the first half, but Colby Rice picked off a Melton pass to the endzone to end that threat and maintain the 6-0 Lion lead.
Minneapolis came out of the halftime break with a successful surprise onside kick, which led to an eventual Cleveland one-yard touchdown plunge. Just as soon as the Lions gained the 14-0 lead, the Buffalo offense woke up.
Republic County answered with a touchdown drive of its own, as Dyke took in a six-yard score on the ground with 3:02 left in the third to make it a tight 14-6 game.
Early on in the fourth quarter, Minneapolis put together another solid drive and had three downs to score from the one-yard line. The Lions were unsuccessful, though, and Republic County got the ball back down eight after the goal-line stand.
The Buffaloes (1-1 overall; 1-1 North Central Activities Association) couldn’t capitalize, however, and the Lions took back over. Minneapolis turned once again to Cleveland, who nearly single-handedly took the Lions on march down the field. The drive then culminated in a five-yard game-clinching rushing score for Cleveland.
In the 20-6 victory, Minneapolis (1-2 overall; 1-1 NCAA) forced three turnovers and did not have any giveaways. The Lions relied heavily on the ground game, which accounted for 239 of their 245 offensive yards.
Cleveland’s big game gave him the nod for the Nex-Tek Wireless Player of the Game. He accounted for 76 percent of Minneapolis’s yards.
Junior offensive guard Isaiah Vignery had the H&R Block(s) of the game. Vignery was a big part of clearing holes for Cleveland to run along the interior of the line.
Minneapolis will be back at home next week to start its district slate against Norton for Homecoming. The Lions won last year’s matchup 30-7. The game will be broadcasted as always on 92.7 The New Zoo in the Salina area, and it will stream online on ksal.com.