Had a touchdown for the Havover High School football team just before the end of the first half not been called back, the Wildcats would have been just 13 points away from winning by the 45-point rule against Hodgeman County in the finals of the Eight-Man I championship game at Fischer Field.
Instead, the Longhorns turned a deficit of as many as 26 points into six by the end of the game as Hanover held on for a 54-48 win.
Hanover held on for its second straight state title and fifth overall. The Wildcats finish the season 13-0 and run their winning streak to 25 games.
“We eased off,” Hanover quarterback Daiken Stallbaumer said. “We continued to move the ball. Defensively, we almost — I don’t want to say got tired — but we almost gave up. We finished well enough to win it.”
Stallbaumer finished the game hitting 13 of 16 passes for 232 yards with three touchdowns. He rushed for 74 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. He also returned an interception for a touchdown.
Stallbaumer is a junior. The Wildcats lose five seniors off its 26-player roster.
“Coming into the year, we had high expectations,” Stallbaumer said. “I see no reason why we can’t come back. In the off-season, we have to work.”
Kevin Diederich had four catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Brennan Zabokrtsky had four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Carter Bruna had 15 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Diederich had 14 total tackles, 10 solo. Bruna had 13 total tackles.
“I wanted to keep the ball on the ground and I wanted to keep the clock running,” Hanover coach Matt Heuer said. “Maybe we should have taken another shot or two at the end zone, but defense is what got us here. I don’t feel like it was such a bad thing to have the ball in their hands.”
Hodgeman County, 10-3, was led by Jacob Salmans, who hit 13 of 21 passes for 201 yards with four touchdowns and an interception, Jacob Salmans also rushed for 146 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns. Trevor Morgan had five catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns.
“We knew we could do it,” Jacob Salmans said. “We didn’t get a lot of breaks go our way in the first half. In the second half, we knew we could do it. We just started to. We don’t quit. We just don’t quit. We keep fighting. (Recovering the on-side kick) was crazy. I don’t think we tried that all year. We got it. That was nice.”
Each team scored seven touchdowns. Hanover converted six two-point conversions to three for the Longhorns.
“We preach to our kids all the time that two-point conversions are the biggest part of the game,” Heuer said. “If you look at ours, we got all but one. They missed three or four. You make the same amount of two-point conversions, you probably had the same amount of touchdowns.”
Hanover scored on its first four possessions of the first half — two by Stallbaumer passes and two by Stallbaumer runs. A fifth touchdown was called back on a holding call. Hodgeman County scored on its third possession, a long drive that ended on a Jacob Salmans two-yard run. All five two-point conversions were completed.
The Longhorns struck 21 seconds into the second half on a 59-yard Salmans run. The PAT run was stopped short.
Despite two major penalties, Hanover came back to score on a nine-yard Carter Bruna run. Hanover again scored on the two-point conversion.
Hanover was forced to punt midway in the third quarter, but two plays later, Stallbaumer intercepted a pass and returned it 36-yard for the touchdown. Hodgeman County came right back with a 43-yard pass from Jacob Salmans to Trevor Morgan. After a defensive stop at the Longhorn 11, Jacob Salmans hit Morgan for a 48-yard touchdown pass. Jacob Salmans ran in the two-point conversion.
“They are a good team,” Stallbaumer said. “They have every right to be here. They have every right to win. We were lucky to pull it out at the end. Kudos to them. They are a great team.”
Hanover struck back quickly on a 51-yard pass from Stallbaumer to Kevin Diederich. For the first time, Hanover failed to convert on the two-point conversion.
The Longhorns struck again on a 13-yard pass from Jacob Salmans to Aaron Sherrill. Hodgeman County recovered the on-side kick, setting up a nine-yard touchdown run for Eli Salmans with 6:34 to play. The two-point run on both scores were stopped.
The Longhorns got the ball back two plays later on a fumble. Four players back, Hodgeman County fumbled the ball back with 4:19 to play.
Hodgeman County struck once again on a nine-yard pass from Jacob Salmans to Morgan. The PAT run was stopped short with seven seconds to play. The on-side kick went out of bounds, allowing Hanover to preserve the win.
“A lot of people have been questioning if we would have the conditioning to play a full 48-minute game,” Heuer said. “These last three weeks, we were able to hold on and win a state championship. That proved we were in condition. … Our kids did a good job of staying the course and bending, but not breaking. We bent maybe more than we should have.”
“It’s the best way to go our for us,” Jacob Salmans said. “If we’re going to lose, this was the best way to go out.”
1q. Ha. Stallbaumer 13-yd. run (Diederich run) 6:59
1q. Ha. Diederich 22-yd. pass from Stallbaumer (Stallbaumer run) 2:29
2q. Ha. Zabokrtsky 50-yd. pass from Stallbaumer (Diederich pass from Stallbaumer) 9:38
2q. HC J.Salmans 2-yd. run (J.Salmans run) 4:36
2q. Ha. Stallbaumer 1-yd. run (Cohorst pass from Stallbaumer) 1:05
3q. HC J.Salmans 59-yd. run (run failed) 11:39
3q. Ha. C.Bruna 9-yd. run (Cohorst pass from Stallbaumer) 7:30
3q. Ha. Stallbaumer 36-yd. interception return (Zabokrtsky pass from Stallbaumer) 5:43
3q. HC Mogan 37-yd. pass from J.Salmans (E.Salmans run) 3:28
4q. HC Morgan 48-yd. pass from J.Salmans (J.Salmans run) 10:55
4q. Ha. Diederich 51-yd. pass from Stallbaumer (pass failed) 10:19
4q. HC Sherrill 13-yd. pass from J.Salmans (run failed) 7:41
4q. HC E.Salmans 9-run (run failed) 6:34
4q. HC Mogan 9-yd. pass from J.Salmans (run failed) :07
RUSHING — Hodgeman County: E.Salmans 19-62, J.Salmans 26-146, team 1-2. Hanover: C.Bruna 15-85, Diederich 5-34, Stallbaumer 22-74, Naegele 1-(-5).
PASSING — Hodgeman County: J.Salmans 13-21-1, 201 yards. Hanover: Stallbaumer 14-19-0, 253 yards.
RECEIVING — Hodgeman County: Morgan 5-119, Sherrill 4-46, E.Salmans 2-17, Coats 2-19. Hanover: Cohorst 1-23, C.Bruna 4-61, Diederich 4-77, Zabokrtsky 4-71.
Missed field goals — none.