Bombers take down Cougars
By Ryan Holmgren
The dependable running back found the end zone five times Saturday and the Bombers routed Heart River 50-28 in the first round of the Class A playoffs, their first postseason win since 1998.
Four of those scores came on the same exact sweep play — three to the left side, once to the right. But without his brother/sidekick/lead blocker, wingback Marshall White, he would’ve been left out to dry in the backfield.
The 6-foot, 180-pound junior swept around the edge to deliver vicious blows to the Cougars’ secondary, leaving massive running lanes for his older brother.
“I feel really good running with my brother. I trust him,” Mitchell White said. “He put it all on the field today and I helped him out, ran off his blocks and we did good together.”
Added Marshall White, who scored once himself: “I just see an opportunity for my brother to get a touchdown. I take (the block) and just help him out as much as I can.”
Mitchel White carried 17 times for 239 yards and returned a kickoff 84 yards for his other score.
“He’s a really good running back,” Heart River coach Mike Williams said. “He did it last year, he’s been doing it for the past three years.”
After a pair of uneventful opening drives, L&C-OR (8-2) and Heart River (6-4) combined to score on seven consecutive possessions.
White dashed in untouched from 59 yards on a sweep left and added a two-point conversion on the Bombers’ second drive for an 8-0 lead. He accounted for all four of L&C-OR’s first-half touchdowns, with his kickoff return and sweeps of 56 and 16 yards being the other three.
“We knew it was coming,” Williams said of L&C-OR’s success with the sweeps. “They had a certain play they liked running — it was a down play, an off-tackle play. We shut that down and they knew that, so they countered to go a gap wider and our guys out there on the perimeter just missed tackles.”
In between those quick-hitting scores, the Cougars dominated time of possession.
They controlled the ball for 19 minutes, 25 seconds in the first half, running 41 plays to the Bombers’ 12. Heart River outgained L&C-OR 257-159 in the first half.
Heart River’s first-half scores capped lengthy drive: 75 yards on nine plays, 74 yards on nine plays and 57 yards on 12 plays.
Heart River junior tailback Cade Shypkoski totaled 139 yards before halftime. Altogether, he carried 29 times for 219 rushing yards including first-half touchdowns of 11 yards and 1 yard. Fullback Clayton Tangen bulldozed in from 3 yards for the Cougars’ third score.
But White’s 16-yard touchdown with 32 seconds in the half gave the Bombers a 28-20 lead at the break. And their momentum ballooned soon after.
L&C-OR recovered a botched handoff from Heart River senior quarterback Tyson Kudrna to Tangen on the third play of the second half, and Marshall White capped the ensuing drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.
“It was huge,” L&C-OR coach George Duenas said of the fumble recovery. “It was such a big change in momentum. That was the ballgame right there.”
L&C-OR stuffed Heart River twice on fourth-down, short-yardage situations in the second half, allowing it to push its lead to 30 points.
With 1:01 remaining in the third quarter, Mitchel White scored his fifth touchdown. Early in the fourth frame, junior quarterback Austin Lee found classmate Jordan Nelson for a 9-yard touchdown pass, pushing the Bombers’ advantage to 50-20.
“We struggled to stop the run, obviously,” Duenas said, “but we adjusted a little bit on defense — our ‘D’ coordinator did a good job adjusting — and we were able to shut them out with our first team (in the second half).”
Heart River sophomore Kenny Huffstutler scored a late, 29-yard touchdown against the Bombers’ backups, but an onside kick attempt was unsuccessful and the Bombers finally got their elusive win.
The past three years, L&C-OR fell in the first round. Simply reaching the postseason was a success. But a playoff victory, after all these years…
“Oh, my god,” White said. “It feels so good. We broke down the door that we could not get through for 15 years and just the feeling my senior year, breaking that door down, it just feels so special. And with the guys that I’m playing with, nothing in the world could beat this.”
The Bombers’ next challenge is a road game Saturday at No.-1 ranked Hazen (10-0). But at least for a moment, they’ll bask in the glory that’s evaded them for so long.
“This is a huge win for our program,” Duenas said.