Chandler Jackson and the Southeast Lancers were looking for their first win of the season, but Drew Mills and the Northeast Vikings had other plans.
Playing at Cherokee, the Vikings played the Lancers to their closest game of the season but ended up crashing Southeast’s homecoming with a 34-24 victory.
With the Vikings leading by three points, NHS' Clayton Bammer picked off Southeast quarterback Caleb Fenimore to gain possession late. Mills made the Lancers pay by scoring on his longest carry of the game for a 42-yard touchdown run with 4:24 on the clock to ice the game.
“We knew that we had to get a big play and push the lead,” Mills said. “It helped that the offensive linemen gave me a big pull.”
Prior, the Lancers had erased a 27-12 second-half deficit by scoring 12-unanswered points at the start of the fourth quarter, courtesy of Jackson’s two touchdown runs on gains of 45 and 30 yards.
“It’s a good win for us,” said Northeast head coach Phil Hobbs. “We’ve battled through a lot of adversity in the last few weeks. We’ve had a few injuries on this team. We had guys step up tonight. Drew Mills did a great job of manning the offense.”
Bammer’s interception was one of two late turnovers by the Lancers. The second was a fumble by Lawrence at the Viking 47-yard line with 3:26 left, with Northeast recovering.
The Vikings improved to 3-3 for the year, while the Lancers fell to 0-6.
“They played as hard as they could,” said Southeast head coach Jerrad Hansen. “They had nothing left in the tank. I’m happy that we had our chances. Northeast just capitalized on theirs.”
After forcing the Vikings to punt on the opening drive, Jackson drove to the Northeast 23-yard line on a 37-yard return and Southeast had ideal field position.
Two plays later, Jackson broke loose for 24 yards and on the following play, Cameron Paasch scored from one-yard out on a run to give the Lancers a 6-0 lead with 8:54 in the first quarter.
Micah Howard used a 26-yard run as Northeast entered Southeast territory for the first time on the ensuing drive. Mills completed a 34-yard pass that was intended for Corbin Wright but was tipped out of his hands and was caught instead by Gage Moore. An illegal procedure penalty on Southeast was followed by a three-yard touchdown run by Mills with 6:45 in the first quarter. He converted the two-point conversion to put the Vikings in front.
Facing third and 20 from their own 23-yard line, Mills hooked up with Ethan Balk for an 84-yard reception. Northeast faced third and long soon after when Mills was sacked for a 4-yard loss. The Vikings once again converted on a 16-yard completion from Mills to Moore.
At the start of the second quarter, the NHS could not convert again, throwing incomplete passes on third and fourth downs to turn the ball over at the Southeast 28 yard line.
Facing fourth and 20 from midfield, Jackson bobbled the snap and the play resulted in a 5-yard loss after refusing to kick the ball early in the second quarter.
Behind a slow start to the second quarter for both offenses, Northeast managed to get something going with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Moore. Dylan Lawrence blocked the PAT with 3:37 before halftime and Northeast leading 14-6.
Jackson used another big return, this time of 37 yards to get the Lancers past midfield a few plays later and on the next play, Southeast quarterback Caleb Fenimore completed his first pass of the game with a 32 yard hook up with Paasch. The play eventually set up a one yard touchdown run by Paasch, his second of the night, with 1:41 in the second. The 2-point conversion attempt pass was swatted away and the Vikings maintained a two point lead.
Facing fourth down at the Lancer 31, the Vikings took a time out with six seconds left in the first half. It paid off as Mills completed to Bammer for a touchdown pass as time expired and the Vikings ended the half with a 20-12 advantage.
“It was very crucial because they were getting the ball to start the second half,” Hobbs said. “I wanted to give us a shot and the players made it happen. That was beyond my expectations when that happened but that’s what our kids our capable.”
For Mills, the touchdown was an energy gainer.
“That helped us a lot,” Mills said. “It gave us plenty of momentum going into the locker room.”
Mills’ first completed pass of the second half went to Balk for 15 yards, which was enough to convert on third and 14 to the Southeast 3-yard line late in the third. Mills scored his second touchdown on an option keeper with 2:04 in the quarter. Ashton Edwards made the first extra point for the Vikings.
The Lancers used two plays to jumpstart some momentum in the second half and it came from a low punt snap to Bammer who was brought down at the Vikings’ 30-yard line and couldn’t get the kick off. One play later, Jackson found the end zone on a touchdown run with less than a minute in the third. The Viking defense swatted away the 2-point conversion pass to keep their two-score lead at 27-18.
Jackson used a 45-yard touchdown with 10:14 to come within three of the Vikings.
“It’s the performance that I had been waiting from Jackson this year,” Hansen said. “He had been bottled up. Teams in the CNC keep like three players on him. He shined tonight.”
Southeast needed a crucial stop on defense and earned it by forcing the Vikings to turn the ball over on fourth down inside the Lancer 30 with 5:50.
“I told the guys to just hang in there and keep playing,” Hobbs said. “That’s what we need to do. Keep playing and keep executing.”
Mills finished the game with 205 yards passing after going seven of 20. He had roughly around 92 yards of rushing from 25 carries.
“Without that line, I would have done nothing,” Mills said. “They gave me big holes and a lot of time to pass.”
Howard had 73 yards rushing from 11 carries.
Moore had 86 reception yards from three catches while Balk had 88 receiving yards from three receptions.
Jackson had 118 yards from rushing on 11 carries. Fenimore threw for 55 yards on two of 11 passes and two interceptions.