“They’ve been doing a lot of slant routes,” said Sexton, a wide receiver on offense and linebacker on defense. “That quarterback is a young backup. He was easier to read than a normal quarterback. I just read is eyes, read his arm, stayed in front of him and got the interceptions. That helped out a lot getting turnovers.
“I’ve had multiple games of two but I have never had three in my career. That’s kind of nice, especially up here at Marysville.”
On defense he made two key tackles, stopping Marysville from scoring late in the game.
“At that time of the game you have to step up, fill holes and do not let anyone behind you,” he said. “We did that. Our defense did a great job. Giving up 14 points up here at Marysville: you can’t be mad about that.”
Abilene Keil Kelly also rattled Hammett with two interceptions. Dathan Parks also recovered a fumble. Hammett, a sophomore, replaced the veteran senior Brett Crome who was injured two weeks ago. In the first half, Marysville’s passing offense was 0-6 minus 7 yards and 3 interceptions thanks to the Cowboy’s defense.
At the end of the first quarter a 45-yard field goal by Marysville’s Garrett Eck was partially blocked by Abilene’s Josh Anguiano. On the next play Kane Kelly broke free on an 80-yard touchdown run but it was called back on a penalty.
While the Bulldogs struggled, the Cowboys did their best to help out the home team. A snap went over the head of punter Justin Linn. That drive was stopped by a Sexton interception but on the next play quarterback Andy Wilson threw his second interception of the season. A fumbled snap led to a turnover on the second play of the second quarter. That led to Marysville’s first score.
“That first half was like our brains were somewhere in our duffel bags,” said Abilene coach Jeff Geist. “We did everything we could to lose it; not listening to what you are supposed to do throughout the week translated into the game.”
In the first half Abilene ran the ball 11 times for a gain of 2 yards.
“Our defense made some plays and kept us in it,” he added. “Going down the stretch we decided we’d run the ball and it worked out for us. We probably should have done more of it. I tell the kids, it’s the little things that end up making big things, whether it’s good or bad. You have to take care of the little things.”
The North Central Kansas League title game came down to the last five and half minutes.
“In my 14 years this is the second time we’ve won here,” Geist said. “This would be two in a row. That’s kind of nice.”
Marysville started a scoring drive on its own 20-yard line following a 40-yard punt by Linn. Earning six first downs on the running of Austin Tillery and Hammett, Marysville was able to move the football. Tillery scored on a 25-yard run with 5:27 left in the game to tie the game at 14.
Abilene took over with good field position on the 45-yard line. Kane Kelly, Wilson and Tayler O’Neal took turns running the ball until Marysville forced a fourth down and 3 yards to go on the 24-yard line.
The Cowboys were well within Linn’s field-goal range but it was into a breeze.
“There was no decision,” Geist said in the move to go for it. “I was a little undecided on what I wanted to do. Collin come up and said ‘give it to Kane. He’ll make it. We ran a speed option and by golly, he made a nice cut there. It was just nothing but daylight.”
Wilson took the snap in shotgun formation, which he always does, with Kelly as tail back. Wilson was stopped by the defensive end and he pitched to Kelly who scored on a 24-yard run. Linn kicked the PAT giving Abilene a 21-14 lead.
Abilene’s kickoff was an intentional squib giving the Bulldogs the ball on their own 40-yard line, with 1:03 left in the game.
Marysville coach Brad Hammett threw a little razzle dazzle at the Cowboys.
Quarterback Hammett handed off to James Landoll ,who passed back to Hammett, but that didn’t fool Abilene’s defense and three players were in on the tackle.
A pass to Tillery gained 19 yards before Sexton came up to make the stop.
On the next play Hammett couldn’t find an open receiver and was running to the sideline. Parks came up to make the tackle near the out of bounds marker. Most of the Marysville fans and Marysville’s coach Brad Hammett thought the hit was made out of bounds which would been an Abilene penalty.
Hammett’s first 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlikelike conduct backed up Marysville to the 40-yard line. His second penalty, for which he was ejected from the game, put the Bulldogs back to the 35-yard line. The Bulldogs were facing a third down 40.
Hammett’s first pass was incomplete; the second was picked off by Keil Kelly, who intercepted Hammett’s first pass of the game and the last.
“I’ve know Brad (Hammett) for a while and he does a heck of a job coaching,” Geist said. “Part of it was frustration. I’ve sure with his son being quarterback there was a little added to it. I know that Brad will be back next year with a pretty solid team.”
The win gives Abilene, 6-0, 4-0, at least a share of the NCKL title: something the Cowboys have won the past three straight years. Abilene will host the winless Chapman on Friday. A victory will give the Cowboys a third undefeated NCKL championship. Abilene, Chapman and Marysville are the only teams that have won three straight NCKL football titles since Abilene joined the league.
Hammett completed 5 passes in 15 attempts for 29 yards. Led by Neitfeld with 73 yards, Marysville had 215 yards. Neitfeld started the fourth quarter off with two running plays and didn’t touch the ball after that.
Abilene’s running game picked up in the second half as the Cowboys gained 122 yards on 17 carries. Wilson finished with 11 receptions in 18 attempts for 135 yards passing.
Abilene 21, Marysville 14
Abilene 0 7 7 7—21
Marysville 0 7 0 7—14
How they scored
M—Nietfield 30-run (Eck kick)
A—Polk 16-pass from Wilson (Linn kick)
A—Wilson 33-run (Linn kick)
M—Tillery 25-run (Eck kick)
A—Wilson 24-run (Linn kick)
Passing: A—Andy Wilson 11-18 135 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. M—Brett Hammett 5-15 29 yards, 5 INT.
Rushing: A—Andy Wilson 8-61, Kane Kelly 17-122, Tayler O’Neal 2-6. M—Mikan Nietfield 19-73, Austin Tillery 7-71, Brett Hammett 20-71.
Receiving: A—Collin Sexton 3-57, Adrian Polk 3-38, Heath Hernandez 2-27.Austin Tillery 1-19, Gale Green 1-14, Brandon Griffee 1-10.
Takles U-A: A—Collin Sexton 12-8, Kane Kelly 5-5, Dathan Parks 5-4, Adrian Polk 3 5, Jake Weiner 3-7, Josh Anguiano 3-3, Heath Hernandez 5-1, Tayler O’Neal 3-3.