RICHARDTON - With about 40 seconds remaining in the first half, the Richardton-Taylor-Hebron football team was on the goal line. The Raiders got in position, rushing two plays to no avail before spiking the ball with 1.7 seconds remaining.
In the last attempt of the half, senior running back Zach Schmalenberger dashed wide left to score, giving the Raiders a 30-20 advantage at the half.
Relying heavily on Schmalenberger and the ground game, Richardton-Taylor-Hebron served Central McLean its first loss, 44-32 from John H. Gengler Memorial Field on Friday, Aug. 31.
"Last year, that wouldn't have happened," said Shawn Alder, who stepped in for the absent head coach Seth Froster. "Last year we probably would have ran the time out. We wouldn't have got the play off. This year, our leadership and experience really helped in that end of the first half where we got to spike the ball."
Nearly a year ago to the day, the Cougars served the 2017 Raiders a 16-14 loss, the closest defeat of a 1-8 season. With the well-fought victory, the 2018 team is now 2-1, including a 2-0 9-man Region 5 record.
Schmalenberger leads the Raiders offense, but the senior takes no credit for the effort, crediting the line and senior fullback Elijah Vogle.
"We've been together since seventh grade, so we've just kind of bonded," Schmalenberger said of Vogle. "He's a really tough kid. He makes those blocks and I just cut off and it's always open. We just have really good chemistry. The whole team flows way better."
While Raiders senior quarterback Logan Hoff hands the ball to Schmalenberger often, he has ample other options, including tight end Logan Kuntz, who he found two times in the second half.
"Logan Hoff, we have so many targets on offense. We have Zach with the offensive line, and then we have Logan and Collin Kuntz at tight ends and we have Owen Voigt at receiver and Wyatt Kuhn at receiver," Alder said. "We're so multi-dimensional we don't have to rely on the run game. We can open up the pass game and come back and run it when they start coming off a little bit."
The Cougars were a bit disarmed by the speed of the Raiders run game and efficiency of their offense.
"We had seen them on tape and I knew that (Schmalenberger) and (Vogle) were really strong runners. I didn't know they were that quick," Central McLean co-head coach Kevin Dockter said. "Their speed hurt us. Number four too (Voigt), he hurt us a lot with that. Video tape is deceiving until you see it in person."
Still, they had tactics of their own, especially in the arm of senior quarterback Trapper Jacobs and the athleticism junior receiver Ty Snyder.
"It's his third year starting and Ty, our receiver ... he made some unbelievable catches and plays," Dockter said. "There's good things too. We scored 32 points, we came back strong. It's just one loss. We got a lot of season left, just got to improve."
The Cougars seemed to gain defensive momentum as the game progressed, halting a Raiders' drive with a pass deflection on fourth down in the third, keeping them scoreless that frame.
With six minutes and eight seconds remaining in the game, the visitors scored, getting within four points, 36-32.
However, a final drive from Richardton-Taylor-Hebron put the game away.
Hoff found L. Kuntz for an 11-yard pass, putting the Raiders on the Cougars 32-yard line. Vogle rushed for another first down and with help from a Central McLean penalty, put Richardton-Taylor-Hebron within 10-yards of the goal line.
With 1:08 to go, Vogle got the touch again, this time crossing the line to score, stretching the lead to 44-32.
"That's our game plan with the week, get the offensive line pushing," Alder said. "We have a great, sound offensive line this year. They have a lot of chemistry and a lot of experience from last year."
Richardton Taylor 44, Central McLean 32
Records: RT, 2-1 (2-0 Region 5). CM, 2-1 (1-1 Region 5).
Full stats were not available.