The Northside Rams (8-2, 5-1) won a nail bitter versus the Deshler Tigers (6-3 ,5-2) in the first round of the Class 4A AHSAA Playoffs.

Photo By Dom Taylor

The playoff energy was ever present Eric Malone Jr. took one to the crib with a 85-yard touchdown on the first kickoff of the game, giving Deshler a 7-0 lead and the momentum to force a quick 3 and out.

Seizing the opportunity, the Tigers put up a 13-play 82-yard drive, utilizing a clear speed advantage, forcing the Northside defense to play sideline to sideline. A 35-yard beauty from sophomore Kendarius Anderson connected with Nicholas Whitten and set up a 2-yard score from Colson Jeffreys with 3:51 left to go in the first quarter. A missed field goal would leave the score at 13-0.

The next drive Coach Hilliker opted to stick to Northside’s bread and butter and it paid off in a big way. The two-man game between Braden Green and two-way star Jace McNutt would be the closest thing to Kobe and Shaq on turf as they combined for 46 yards on the ground and capped off the 11-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown by McNutt to draw closer on the scoreboard at 7-13.

McNutt followed up with another big play defensively with a huge tackle for loss, forcing Deshler to punt from their own territory. A bad snap led to Northside setting up shop at Deshler’s 10-yard line,  leading to a smooth 10-yard scamper by Braden Green to even the game up at 13 all with a 4:25 left to go in the half.

Photo By Dom Taylor

When it rains pours and Deshler just didn’t seem to have an umbrella. Two plays after the Northside’s score Deshler caught an unfortunate break on a fumble recovery call that could’ve went either way.

The Northside ground game managed to eat up clock and demoralize the Tigers as Luke Jones found pay dirt and gave Rams a 20-13 lead with 53 seconds left in the half.

The Rams received position and continued to use the ground relentlessly until the Tigers were able to get a stop and force a punt just outside of 4 down territory. This drive featured a heavy dose of Colson Jeffery’s as he tallied 38 yards all purpose (receiving and rushing) to set up a field goal attempt that went wide right and left the score 20-13 with 2:06 remaining in the 3rd Quarter.

Northside continued to play keep away and march down the field using Green as the primary work horse until a fumble gave the ball back with 5:34 left to go. The crowd stood to their feet as their playoff lives were at stake. A incomplete pass and a huge sack by Houston Lackey put Deshler in a 3rd and 17.

As Kendarius Anderson dropped back and threw a screen to Jakari Belue the crowd grew louder and louder as he raced to the endzone with 4:08 left to go.

But some dirty laundry was on the field.

The play would be called back due to a questionable block in the back call. However, Deshler continued to fight until the end. A bone crushing (first down saving) hit from Keiton Camp would place the Tigers in a 4th & 10 situation.

Anderson dropped back fired another screen pass to Belue but this time Northside was ready. Senior Lackey would punch the ball out as Joshua Tremble recovered the fumble. Effectively ending the game.

When asked about next week matchup Coach Hilliker liked his team’s chances saying

“We’re going to play the number two team in the state. Their great but we’re good too," said Hilliker.

As the Deshler Tigers seasons end in a heartbreak, Northside will travel to Madison Academy (10-0,7-0) next week to continue a quest for a Class 4A State Championship.

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