Not many games come down to the last play.
Friday’s district-opening game between Minneapolis and Norton did.
Minneapolis (2-2 overall; 1-0 District 2A-8) used a strong defensive performance on its homecoming night to shut the door on Norton and win 15-7.
Norton had the ball with just under a minute left in the game with no timeouts from its own 19-yard line. The Bluejays efficiently drove all the way to Minneapolis’s 13-yard line with five seconds left to go. Bluejay quarterback Sean Anderson dropped back on the final play of regulation and scanned his options in the end zone, but he was sacked to end the game.
That pivotal sack was one of two for the Lion defense, which also forced three Bluejay turnovers.
The game’s scoring started nine minutes into the first quarter, when Minneapolis went on an 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive. Junior quarterback Gabe Hueser raced around the edge and ran it in for a six-yard rushing score.
The Lions took an 8-0 lead into the second quarter, and Norton answered back with just a minute left in the first half on an Anderson 20-yard touchdown pass to Roman Hauser. Minneapolis held a slim 8-7 lead at the intermission.
The third quarter proved fruitless, as neither offense could find much production. The fourth quarter continued the defensive struggle, until a 23-yard punt return from Jonathan Lowe set the Lions up just outside of the redzone. A few plays later, Gannon Cleveland plunged into the end zone from four yards out to give the Lions a 15-7 lead with 6:34 left.
Norton (2-2; 0-1) threatened again, but senior Drake Harding then fumbled in Minneapolis territory with three minutes left. The Lions couldn’t find any points off of the turnover, though, and punted back to the Bluejays for the deciding final drive of the game that ultimately sealed Minneapolis’s victory.
The Lion offense mustered just 93 yards, so the defense shouldered much of the load. It was just enough to get Minneapolis in the win column.
Senior Chasyn Vogan was named Nex-Tech Wireless Player of the Game. Vogan not only played a big part in the Lions’ defensive effort, but he also had four punts downed inside the Norton 20-yard line. The field-flipping punts changed the landscape of the game.
Senior offensive tackle Dylan Cossaart had the H&R Block(s) of the game. Cossaart helped clear some holes for Weston Schrader to run trough for big gains on Minneapolis’s first scoring drive.
Minneapolis will be back on the road next week in district play against Hoisington. The Cardinals won last year’s matchup 27-6. 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.