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Cougars crestfallen in final home game loss

Bowman County plays until the final whistle in attempt to move up Region 4 rankings

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Heart River fall to Bowman County on their final home game.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
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BELFIELD, N.D. — The Heart River Cougars will end the season without a home win. A valiant effort at their homecoming game on Friday night would see the Cougs face Bowman County Bulldogs, whose offense started late, but quickly became a runaway train.

The Cougars (0-5, 0-6) running game would provide a first quarter touchdown and their defense kept the Bulldogs (3-1, 4-3) from responding before the halftime whistle. The tempo of the game would take a drastic change in the second half as Bowman County came out firing on all cylinders and hungry for points. Late into the fourth quarter with the final score of 24-8 already set, the Bulldogs didn’t rest on their laurels and kept pushing for additional points.

It wasn’t a matter of running down an already beaten team, instead the Bulldogs were counting on a possibility of a tie in the Region 4 standings.

“I am just really proud of our guys tonight. We worked hard, played hard and we have such a good group of kids,” Carter Maynard, Cougars head coach, said “It's tough, seniors' last home game. Austin Buckman, Lee Obrigetwitch, Caleb Kasian, Luis Garcia, William Hoon and Jayson Morel. They are great kids, I feel for them. We played against a really good ball club tonight.”

The Bulldog were not up to their usual dominance in the first half — and Heart River’s tough nose defense only hampered them further. The Cougars got onto the scoreboard courtesy of senior quarterback Austin Buckman’s run off the tackles. After the 8-point score, Heart River’s defense would continue their relentless pressure, nabbing two interceptions and forcing three, 3-and-outs.

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Logan Garrison had two interceptions against the Bulldogs.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

“We started off slow and Heart River did an amazing job of shutting us down,” Nate Kees, the Bulldogs head coach, said. “Our guys came out fired in the second half and played with a little bit more tempo and excitement and started running the ball.”

Bowman County’s special teams would get the ball rolling in the second half with a strong return by Roman Fossum to put them just outside the Cougars’ red zone — the drive would result in a turnover on downs. No third-time-the-charm was needed however, as the Bulldogs’ second drive would result in a touchdown and tie it up at 8.

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Bowman County offense and Heart River's defense line at the line of scrimmage.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The Bulldogs would score on their following drive via a sideline dart by quarterback Bohden Duffield, who carried the ball in near the pylon for the 2-point conversion to take a 16-8 lead.

Heart River’s offense, staggering, was being met with constant pressure in a role reversal of the first half — including on punts.

The third quarter would end with two tackles for negative yardage, including a sack that led to a 4th and 20 punt.

“We had to ask ourselves, ‘We are fighting for our season here and so what do we want to do?’ And we made some adjustments. Coach Jaden Schoch called the offense, he did an amazing job tonight adjusting to a really stingy defense,” Kees said. “We got close on a couple of punt blocks, which I think affected their punt game… Really proud of our special teams and offense coming alive in the second half and the defense making stops when they had to.”

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Bohden Duffield passing the ball under pressure.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The final Bowman County touchdown came at the fourth quarter’s eighth minute mark and would see the Bulldogs nearly score another before a flag for holding would send them backwards and see the drive stall on a failed field goal attempt.

Trying to make something happen in the final minutes of the game, the Cougars would try for Hail Mary attempts at throwing the ball. Any semblance of luck would run dry as their deep attempts would be intercepted by Duffield.

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After one carry, the Bulldogs could have kneeled to kill the clock with their win already cemented, but chose to keep the drive going.

Later explained after the game, Bowman County said they were trying to take a 17 point lead with Trinity in a heated contest against Hazen at the time. Had Titans lost, they would have been tied in standings with the Bulldogs and a tiebreaker of point-differential would have gone into effect.

“In the fourth quarter, with four minutes left of so, we had a touchdown run in, but were brought back by penalty and that would have helped that,” Kees said. “That is why I called what I called and hope nobody is sore about it, but a game is a game and you have to play until the end.”

Nonetheless, the Heart River defense stayed ready and would tally one final interception in the game in the dying seconds for a moral victory.

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Heart River home crowd cheer as the Cougars claim a late interception.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The Cougars will have two more games before the end of the season against some tough competition, but Buckman and his fellow seniors say they have faith in their team and the future of the program.

“We have been on a struggle bus for the past couple years so I go into every game with the mentality of giving my all, power through and no other expectations. That is just how I was raised and what I was expected to do.” Buckman said. “At the pep rally today I looked at the little kids and I said, ‘Listen to your coaches, do what they tell you, because one day this is going to be you.’ Pretty soon, it won't take too many years, they'll be winning football games, putting it on for the crowd and hopefully I am here to watch.”

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Austin Buckman breaks a tackle on a return.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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