HASTINGS – Friday night’s eight-man football showdown between top-ranked Cumberland-Anita-Massena (CAM) and East Mills had the feel of a heavyweight prizefight.
The Cougars and Wolverines traded punches for four full quarters of football and even needed a session of overtime before CAM could finally come away with a 44-42 decision. On the last play of the game, East Mills running back Nathan Day was stopped inches from the goal line to deny the Wolverines a two-point conversion attempt that would have sent the game into a second overtime period.
“What else is there to say? We played hard,” East Mills head coach Andy Irwin said after the game. “We knew this was going to be a test for us, as to whether we were going to be a solid team or not a solid team. I think we found out today that we can compete.”
The matchup between the Cougars and Wolverines was as evenly matched as the final score indicated. The teams each tallied a pair of touchdowns in the first half with CAM getting two scores from runs of 2 and 26 yards by quarterback Jaxson Armstrong. Nathan Day scored first-half touchdowns for East Mills on a 50-yard punt return and a 26-yard scoring burst.
The Cougars opened up their largest lead of the night, 30-14, by scoring two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions to start the second half. Armstrong teamed up with Luke Symonds on a 22-yard scoring strike to start the third quarter. Moments later, on East Mills’ ensuing possession, Armstrong picked off a deflected pass from Wolverine quarterback Jake Bolton and darted 51 yards for a score.
East Mills came storming back, however, on its next possession. Aided by a 31-yard pass completion from Bolton to May, the Wolverines marched 53 yards for their third touchdown of the night. Bolton capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge.
An Alex Stork touchdown run of 18 yards put CAM up 36-22 early in the fourth quarter, but once again the Wolverines weren’t going down without a fight. Day scored from a yard out with 9:06 left in the game and then the Wolverine defense stepped up by intercepting an Armstrong pass on CAM’s next possession. Jake Doyle came up with the turnover that gave the Wolverines the ball back at their own 7 yard line.
East Mills proceeded to march the length of the field for the tying touchdown, a 28-yard scoring toss from Bolton to Daniel Duysen, who was wide open in the corner of the end zone. Three plays earlier, Bolton had connected with Luke Schafer on a 50-yard reception to put the Wolverines in scoring territory.
Regulation ended with the scored knotted at 36-36.
CAM got the ball first in overtime and promptly found the end zone as Stork sprinted 10 yards for a score on the Cougars first snap. Stork also ran in the two-point conversion to put CAM up 44-36.
East Mills answered with a 7-yard touchdown run by Dylan Larsen, but the Wolverine were unable to convert the two-point conversion as Day took a pitch from Bolton and was brought down just short of the goal line.
“I think it was a great game for us,” Irwin said. “We have nothing to hang our heads about.”
Statistically, East Mills finished the night with 361 yards of total offense, compared to 346 for the Cougars.
Bolton completed 19-of-38 pass attempts for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Schafer caught six passes for 92 yards, while Day hauled in six receptions for 52 yards. Day was the Wolverines’ leading ball carrier, churning out 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 16 carries. He also tallied 71 yards on kickoff returns and another 61 yards running back punts.
Defensively for the Wolverines, Larsen led the way with 15 tackles. Dusyen was in on 12 stops.
Friday night’s game was played at the former Blackhawk Field on the campus of Nishna Valley Elementary School / East Mills Middle School because of problems with the turf on the playing field at East Mills High School in Malvern. The Wolverine’s home game this week against Villisca will also be played on the middle school field at Nishna Valley.
CAM - 06 08 16 06 08 - 44
EM - 08 06 08 14 06 - 42
CAM - Jaxson Armstrong 2 yd run (run failed).
EM – Nathan Day 50 yd punt return (Day Run) .
CAM - Armstrong 26 yd run (pass, Armstrong to Tanner Runyan).
EM - Day 24 yd run (pass failed).
CAM – Luke Symonds 22 yd pass from Armstrong (Alex Stork run).
CAM - Armstrong 51 yd interception return (Stork run).
EM – Jake Bolton 1 yd run (Luke Schafer run).
CAM - Stork 18 yd run (run failed).
EM - Day 1 yd run (Bolton to Day)
EM – Daniel Duysen 27 yd pass from Bolton (pass failed),
CAM - Stork 10 yd run (Stork run).
EM - Larsen 6 yd run (run failed).