The Killdeer Cowboys knew going into their Class A, region four matchup with the Richardton-Taylor-Hebron Raiders that if they won, they would clinch a spot in the playoffs.
The contest came down to the last minute, and the Cowboys elected to either survive or depend upon the outcome of the Dickinson Trinity vs. Shiloh Christian game this weekend for their postseason fate.
Superstar quarterback Zack Andersen did not muster his usual offensive output through three quarters, but he tossed a touchdown to Gabe Magee with 39 seconds left to bring the score to 13-12 in favor of the Raiders.
The Cowboys went for two, and Andersen dropped back. A Richardton-Taylor-Hebron defender stepped in front of the route, and the ball dropped to the wet surface of the grass for a 13-12 Raider victory.
“(Going for two) was something we had talked about that whole drive,” said Killdeer head coach Andy Cook. “We decided that was what we wanted to try and do. We aren’t the first team that has tried that and had it blow up, and we won’t be the last.”
Richardton-Taylor-Hebron improved to 2-5 overall and in the region.
The Cowboys dropped to 3-5 and 3-4 in region four.
If Dickinson Trinity loses this weekend, then the Cowboys will still earn a playoff berth, but if the Titans win then they go to the postseason.
The Raiders’ win capped a perfect night for 10 seniors celebrating their last time putting on the Richardton-Taylor-Hebron uniform.
On the opening drive of the game, the Raiders moved the ball flawlessly down the field until junior quarterback Zayden Schmalenberger coughed the ball up after a nice run at the 3-yard line.
The Cowboys marched down the field in a slow methodical drive.
They converted on three fourth and shorts on the drive, but on the first play of the second quarter, Killdeer was stopped on an incomplete pass on fourth down in the red zone.
The first scoring action of the contest came when Schmalenberger hit senior wide receiver Owen Voigt on a fly route that he took 77 yards to the house.
“We should’ve been able to get Owen Voigt the ball a lot more this year,” said Raider head coach Seth Forster. “He is an outstanding athlete, and sometimes this year we just weren’t able to get the ball to him. This game it really worked out to where we were able to get him the ball.”
The Raiders led after the extra point by a score of 7-0 with 7:47 left until the half.
After the sluggish first half on offense for both teams, Killdeer did themselves no favor on the opening kickoff of the second half.
They fumbled and the Raiders recovered, which electrified the standing room-only crowd.
Andersen finally broke loose early in the third quarter with a 34-yard run, but the drive stalled and Killdeer turned the ball over on downs.
Less than a minute after the defensive stop, Schmalenberger found Voigt once again for a 60-yard touchdown pass.
The extra point was blocked, but the Raiders led 13-0 midway through the third period.
Killdeer tried to make the score a one possession game, but a red zone turnover cost the Cowboys again as Andersen pitched the ball to his running back on an option play, but it was behind him, and Richardton-Taylor-Hebron recovered.
The final quarter is when Andersen finally found room to operate.
He sprinted into the endzone halfway through the fourth quarter to bring the score to 13-6 after the extra point went wide left.
“We preached it all week that Andersen was the focal point of their offense,” said Forster. “He ran the ball almost every time when they played Trinity. We watched film and our coaches had a great plan of when to blitz the linebackers and when not to (blitz). Our kids executed. The big part today was our kids executed and tackled really well. They played their best game this year.”