The visiting North Platte Bulldogs rallied from down 10 in the fourth quarter to take down Millard West 27-24 at Buell Stadium on Friday night.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
The momentum in this game shifted significantly multiple times throughout the game on Friday night.
North Platte opened the game with a 15-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that consisted entirely of running plays and chewed up 7 minutes of game clock. North Platte moved the chains on third down three times and on fourth down once. It looked like the Wildcats were going to have a tough time stopping the Bulldogs.
Then North Platte didn’t score again in the first half. Millard West tied the game with a touchdown on its third possession, finding the end one with just over three minutes to go in the first half. Millard West forced another North Platte three-and-out got the ball back with 1:22, plenty of time to march back down the field and kick a field goal as time expired to take a 10-7 lead not the locker room.
Millard West had a chance to take control with the first possession of the second half, but the Bulldogs forced a punt then began marching the ball down the field just like at the start of the game. Then an errant pitch, a North Platte recovery and then another fumble led to a 73-yard scoop-and-score for Millard West’s Collin Schollmeyer to put the Bulldogs up 17-7 late in the third quarter.
North Platte could have folded after a play like that, but the Bulldogs did the opposite. They ended the third quarter with an eight-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to three heading into the fourth.
Millard West orchestrated another scoring drive that ate up nearly five-and-a-half minutes to take a 24-14 lead. Holding a 10-point lead against a team as run-oriented as North Platte, it looked like the Wildcats were in good shape with the clock as their friend.
So all North Platte did was take four plays and 1:14 to score and make it a one-score game (though a botched extra point made it 24-20 instead of 24-21). Then the Bulldogs forced a three-and-out and got the ball back at their own 36 with 3:37 on the clock. North Platte gradually moved down the field, converting a third-and 3 and a fourth-and-9 on the way to the go-ahead touchdown with 32 seconds to go.
Millard West had one last chance, but the Bulldogs squib-kicked and the Wildcat nearest to the ball flubbed the catch as it bounced off the turf. North Platte recovered the ball to seal the victory.
Run, Run, Run
Heading into Friday night, North Platte was 5-2 with 338 runs (for 2,266 yards) and just 48 pass attempts. That game was my first look at the Bulldogs’ high-powered rushing attack, and I was pretty impressed.
North Platte had five players with 34-plus carries and 130-plus yards on the ground through seven games, and any one of them could carry the ball on any given play. North Plate ran dives and sweeps and option pitches and quarterback reads all night long. Defenders really have to be assignment-sound and keep their eyes disciplined to know where the ball is at any given time.
North Platte’s touchdown to end the third quarter was a perfect example of how tough the Bulldogs can be to defend. North Platte pounded it up the middle with Brock Roblee on five of its first seven plays, then on the eighth quarterback Caleb Tonkinson faked the handoff then pulled it out and ran around the edge himself, jogging 13 yards to the end zone untouched as the defenders all bit on the fake.
Coming off a 240-yard night, Roblee led the way once again on Friday with 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries. Tonkinson added 71 yards and the score on 12 carries. In total, the Bulldogs ran the ball 56 times for 269 yards.
This was my second time seeing Millard West this year, and it was the second time senior running back Nathan Pederson impressed me. He put up 100 yards in the first half alone and finished with 152 and a touchdown on 25 carries. Pederson has the ability at 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds to run through tackles just as easily as avoid them.
In fact, only three Wildcats touched the ball on offense Friday night. Sophomore quarterback Brody Peterson ran the ball five times for 25 yards and was 7-of-9 passing for 58 yards and a touchdown. All seven of those completions went to senior tight end and North Dakota commit Trace Thaden.
It’s no secret that North Platte wants to run the ball as much as it possibly can, but a couple of the biggest plays of the game came through the air on Friday.
Tonkinson only attempted one pass in the fist half, and it fell incomplete. However, when North Platte needed him to make throws in the fourth quarter he delivered. After North Platte pulled ahead by 10, North Platte needed to strike quickly, and Tonkinson did just that with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Cole Wright.
Then, on the game-winning drive, Tonkinson attempted six passes (though two of them were spikes to stop the clock). He narrowly missed Wright on his first pass attempt, then just missed him again along the sideline as Wright caught the ball but was ruled out of bounds.
After the second incompletion, North Platte ran the ball for 3 yards, then Tonkinson got sacked for a loss of two, setting up fourth-and-9 with a minute to play. On the snap, he dropped back and threw a strike to Kolten Tilford for 16 yards.
Tonkinson spiked the ball to stop the clock, then he found Wright again for 19 yards down to the 3-yard line. Tonkinson spiked it again, then Roblee powered the ball in for the game-winning score.
Setting the (Gena)tone
Vince Genatone entered the day leading the Bulldogs in rushing with 677 yards on 71 carries (9.5 yards per carry) and touchdowns (12), and he was the team’s second leading receiver with four catches for 88 yards. He was also second in Class A in tackles with 88 (12.6 per game).
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound athlete didn’t have a big day on offense as the Wildcats did a good job of covering sideline-to-sideline on North Platte’s perimeter runs (where Genatone typically gets his touches). He only totaled 37 yards on 11 carries, but he showed some serious toughness, grinding out extra yards and taking some big hits.
Defensively, Genatone was all over the field. I counted at least eight tackles including one for a loss, and I’m sure he had more than that. Nebraska hasn’t offered yet but is continuing to stay in touch and monitor Genatone’s season.
He also got a chance to check out the Huskers’ practice facility with the rest of the Bulldogs ahead of Friday’s game.
— North Platte Football (@NPHSBulldogsFB) October 15, 2021
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.