BENNINGTON – The ability to adapt helped Plattsmouth ace the biggest test of the football season Friday night.
The Blue Devils overcame a 20-13 halftime deficit to knock off top-seeded Bennington 34-27 in the Class B quarterfinals. Eighth-seeded Plattsmouth scored on an interception return and kickoff return and forced three turnovers against the Badgers. PHS won two playoff games in the same season for the first time since the program’s runner-up finish in 1979.
“I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of these kids and the way they played tonight,” Plattsmouth head coach Bob Dzuris said. “It’s so exciting. It’s exciting for the players, it’s exciting for the coaches and it’s exciting for the whole community. It’s so awesome to see these kids get rewarded for their hard work.”
Dzuris said the victory was especially sweet because of the way the Blue Devils responded to injuries and illness. Several players were forced to stay home because of season-ending injuries or coronavirus quarantines over the past ten days. Offensive linemen Evan Miller, Iyan Martin-Morrison, Caleb Wiseman, Dylan Eby, Quinton Denton and Braden Widick played together as a unit for the first time Friday night.
“I mean, we didn’t know who we were going to start on the offensive line until last night’s practice,” Dzuris said. “We shifted (Caleb) Wiseman from tight end to guard. He’s never played there before, but he knows all of the positions, so we knew he was going to be fine. And then we had freshman Dylan Eby play the entire game at right tackle.
“I’ve never had that in 36 years of coaching. I’ve never had a freshman play the entire game at right tackle before. Then to see the older guys step up and help everyone out was just amazing. To see what the offensive line did tonight was awesome, it really was.”
Plattsmouth (8-2) stunned the Badgers (9-2) on the first play from scrimmage. Owen Prince stepped in front of a pass and returned the interception 27 yards for a touchdown.
That set the tone for a back-and-forth first quarter that featured a pair of touchdowns from both teams. Bennington responded to Plattsmouth’s early score with a 69-yard touchdown drive, and the Blue Devils returned the favor with a 1-yard dive by Christian Meneses with 4:38 remaining. BHS then made it 13-13 after Dylan Mostek scampered 12 yards into the end zone on the next drive.
Bennington gained momentum midway through the second quarter. The team produced a nine-play, 91-yard scoring series in just over two minutes. Cayden Bluhm capped the drive by leaping past the pylon on a 26-yard touchdown reception. The team then stopped Plattsmouth’s final drive of the first half with an interception in the end zone.
Dzuris said the team’s experience made a difference in the second half. The Blue Devils relied on their veteran players to steer things in a winning direction during the final 24 minutes.
“All of the seniors stepped up tonight,” Dzuris said. “They really came through for us. It’s a special group of kids, and their leadership is really something to see. I’m so excited for them, because they get to keep their careers going with this win.”
Plattsmouth dominated the Badgers on both sides of the line of scrimmage in the third quarter. PHS embarked on a nine-play drive on the first series of the stanza. Senior quarterback Jack Alexander found classmate Adam Eggert wide open on a fourth-down play from the 30-yard line for a touchdown connection.
PHS forced a three-and-out on the next series and then snapped the 20-20 tie on the ensuing drive. Meneses ended the series with a 7-yard touchdown run up the middle.
Bennington athletes maintained their composure by stopping Plattsmouth after Prince made his second interception of the game in BHS territory. The team held Plattsmouth scoreless from the 11-yard line. Kale Bird then hooked up with Bluhm on a 66-yard touchdown strike with 10:28 to play in the game.
Plattsmouth took all of the wind out of Bennington’s sails on the kickoff. Eggert broke free from Bennington tacklers and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown. Kody Rubida’s extra-point kick gave PHS a 34-27 lead with 10:19 left.
Prince recovered a Bennington fumble at the 39-yard line with 1:21 to play, and Plattsmouth drained enough clock to give the Badgers just 25 seconds to work with on their final drive. Plattsmouth players raced onto the field to celebrate after Bennington’s final pass with 0.5 seconds left fell incomplete.
Plattsmouth advanced to the Class B semifinals for the first time since 1979. The program defeated Gothenburg 24-0 and Columbus Lakeview 14-7 that year before falling to Norris 20-19 in the championship game.
The Blue Devils will face fifth-seeded Aurora in the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 13. Aurora stopped fourth-seeded Norris 28-21 tonight at Norris. The time and location of the semifinal game will be determined later this weekend.
Plattsmouth 13 0 14 7 – 34
Bennington 13 7 0 7 – 27
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