SIDNEY - All streaks eventually come to an end.
The Fremont-Mills football teams’ streak came to an end on fourth down in Sidney on Friday.
Trailing 31-30 in the waning minutes, the Knights had four attempts from inside the six-yard line but couldn’t punch in the game-winner as the Cowboys handed Fremont-Mills its first regular season loss in 23 games.
“We started off fast and obviously didn’t play well in that second quarter and early in the third quarter and then we got some of the momentum going again and played better,” said Fremont-Mills coach Jeremy Christiansen after the game. “We took the lead and then we have a coverage error on a big play and they take the lead. We marched down but we just couldn’t punch it in.”
The Knights jumped on the Cowboys early in the first quarter, scoring on its first two possessions to take a 12-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. But Sidney would not see a repeat of last year’s 53-11 loss to the Knights and would bounce back with a pair of big plays of their own -- both keyed by senior quarterback Noah McKeever.
McKeever found Jacob Cain for a 12-yard touchdown pass and then executed the zone-read perfectly on a hand-off to Jacob Thorne, who raced up the middle for a 49-yard touchdown.
The teams would trade touchdowns in the second quarter. But the Cowboys would convert the only extra-point of the game to take the 19-18 lead into halftime.
After forcing a Cowboy three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half, the Knights appeared to be driving when Michael Coates picked off an Austin Switzer pass, returning it to the Sidney 37. Ten plays later, McKeever found Chris Osborne for a 13-yard touchdown toss. The Cowboys’ drive ate up more than six minutes of the third quarter and was helped by a defensive holding and pass interference calls on the Knights that negated an interception. But the turn of events seemed to motivate Christiansen’s team.
Following the turnover and the ensuing Cowboy touchdown, the Knights didn’t pass again, running the ball 27 consecutive times behind its big offensive line.
Spencer Phillips rumbled in from 25 yards out on their next possession to trim the Cowboy lead 25-24.
After a Cowboy punt, Phillips ran six times on a nine play touchdown drive capped by Clayton Wilson’s four-yard scamper to put the Knights ahead for the first time since late in the first quarter. After a failed two-point conversion, Fremont-Mills led 30-25.
But Sidney and McKeever wouldn’t go away. The 6-foot, 170 pound senior found tailback Jacob Thorne wide open on a wheel route down the left sideline for a 51 yard touchdown with 4:01 to go.
On the ensuing possession, the Knights took possession at their own 32 and moved the ball all the way down to the Cowboy six yard line with just under two minutes remaining to set up the Knights’ final stand.
Wilson, running out of the wildcat, was stuffed for no gain on first down and gained one yard on second down. With the clock ticking, Phillips ran for one yard to set up a fourth-and-four. Christiansen let the game clock roll down to :04 before calling timeout.
Christiansen decided to go for the touchdown after briefly considering sending in kicker Mackenzie Lang to boot a 22-yard field goal.
“We debated it. He hadn’t kicked all night and we felt it was a tough spot to put him in,?
Phillips took the handoff from Switzer and attempted to go around the right end but was snowed under by the Sidney defense for a three-yard loss as time expired.
“We wanted to go with what got us down the field on that drive and they stepped up and stopped it,” said Christiansen.
Time and again the Cowboys got big plays from McKeever -- who was also in the game-ending tackler. The senior finished 9-of-16 passing for 126 yards and four touchdown passes. He also added 80 yards rushing.
“He is a very solid quarterback and he played well,” Christiansen said.
Phillips keyed the Knights? 296 yard rushing night with 114 yards on a career-high 22 carries. Wilson added 126 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns.
With the win the Cowboys (6-0) take over sole possession of first place in District 8 with a 4-0 record in the district. Christiansen said his team’s goals are still in tack despite the district setback.
“We have to step up from this. We have to be mentally tough and learn from our mistakes and not let them repeat.”
FM 12 06 00 12 - 30
S 06 13 06 06 - 31
FM - Clayton Wilson, 17 run (conversion failed).
FM - Dakota Thomas, 31 pass from Austin Switzer (conversion failed).
S - Jacob Cain, 13 pass from Noah McKeever (conversion failed).
S - Jacob Thorne 49 run (conversion failed).
FM - Spencer Phillips 3 run (conversion failed).
S - Chris Osborne, 21 pass from McKeever (kick good).
S - Osborne, 13 pass from McKeever (conversion failed).
FM - Phillips, 25 run (conversion failed).
FM - Wilson, 4 run (conversion failed).
S - Thorne, 51 pass from McKeever (conversion failed).