The New Brockton Gamecocks (0-3, 0-1) fought all the way to the very end against Class 2A’s No. 2-ranked Luverne Tigers (2-0, 1-0) in Friday’s 33-28 loss at home.
After struggling to an 0-2 start, the Gamecocks never gave up and fought back from a 13-0 deficit at halftime to come within striking distance of making a huge comeback against Luverne.
The Gamecocks scored 14 unanswered points in the final 2:18 of the game to come within five points of the Tigers, but were unable to complete the comeback.
“I thought we fought hard and played a lot better this week,” New Brockton coach Zack Holmes said. “We’re still not where we want to be and our execution level has got to go up.
“I was really proud of the guys going into halftime down 13-0 and coming out fighting and scrapping in the second half. There’s no such thing as a moral victory but to come out and outscore Luverne in the second half was a big deal.”
With 2:18 left in the game, Gamecock quarterback Kaden Cupp plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run. Running back Kyan Horne then converted a two-point conversion and cut Luverne’s lead to 33-22.
After using their timeouts and forcing a Luverne three-and-out on its next possession, the Gamecocks got the ball back on their own 39. A facemask penalty against Luverne moved the ball over midfield, and then Cupp found Kaden Hood for a 10-yard strike after a pair of Cupp scrambles.
Horne then exploded through the Luverne defense for 15 yards followed by an 18-yard touchdown pass from Cupp to Colton Marsh with just 29 seconds remaining. The two-point attempt failed but the score gave New Brockton a chance, down 33-28.
The Gamecocks then lined up for an onside kick and as kicker Brandon McCoy sent the football ahead 10 yards, a Gamecock dove onto the ball. Unfortunately for New Brockton, the ball ricocheted off the player’s hand and bounced out-of-bounds giving the Tigers the ball back and securing their region victory.
“To have a chance there at the end and just have the ball bounce off our fingertips, that’s the execution I’m talking about,” Holmes said. “We want to get the execution part down to go along with that fight and passion we showed out there. If we do that, we’ll be okay.”
In the first quarter, neither team could gain an advantage as the two sides exchanged punts to begin the game.
New Brockton then marched down the field on a 9-play drive and got into Luverne’s red-zone before turning the ball over on downs.
The score remained 0-0 heading into the second quarter, but after the two sides exchanged punts again Luverne finally gained an advantage.
Luverne quarterback Tanner Simmons found running back Kee-Shaun Glanton for a 68-yard touchdown pass with 8:48 left in the first half. New Brockton’s Hood blocked the PAT attempt but the Tigers still led 6-0.
The Gamecocks once again marched down the field on a 14-play drive. After moving the ball to the Luverne 1-yard line, New Brockton faced a fourth-and-goal.
A false start pushed the ball back to the 6-yard line and then a bad snap flew over Cupp’s head leading to a second turnover-on-downs.
After forcing a Luverne three-and-out, a short punt gave New Brockton the ball right back in Tiger territory, but a third turnover-on-downs snuffed out yet another scoring opportunity for the Gamecocks.
Luverne then took control of the game when Simmons found Satyler Wilson for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 55 seconds left in the half. The PAT gave Luverne a 13-0 lead, which they took into halftime.
The Gamecock defense forced its fourth three-and-out of the game to open the third quarter, and then Horne capped off a 9-play, 70-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run with 6:13 left in the period. The PAT cut Luverne’s lead to 13-7.
The Tigers then went on their own 10-play, 53-yard scoring drive and took a 19-7 lead after a 4-yard touchdown run from Glanton. The PAT failed and Luverne still led 19-7.
Facing a fourth-and-11 at the Luverne 21-yard line, the Tigers jumped offsides setting up a fourth-and-six. Cupp then got blasted as a Tiger defender intercepted his pass and raced 97 yards for what might have been a backbreaking touchdown. However, a roughing the passer penalty on the hit gave New Brockton new life inside the Luverne 10-yard line.
Cupp then scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left in the third quarter. The McCoy PAT further cut Luverne’s lead to 19-14. Luverne was not done, however.
On the ensuing kickoff, Luverne’s Glanton raced 75 yards for a touchdown to extend the Tiger lead to 26-14 after the PAT with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
New Brockton opened the fourth quarter by once again driving into Tiger territory but another bad snap led to a 13-yard loss on third down and forced a Gamecock punt.
Luverne made New Brockton pay when Wilson scored on a 5-yard touchdown run. The PAT extended the Tiger lead to 33-14 with 7:05 remaining. That’s when the New Brockton rally began.
For the game, New Brockton outgained Luverne 476 yards to just 286 and had 28 first downs compared to Luverne’s eight.
Luverne, however, had five plays of 33 yards or more in the game, including three scoring plays that went over 40 yards.
After Cupp struggled last week with four interceptions, he led the Gamecock passing game with 134 yards and a touchdown – completing 9-of-15 passes – and also rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Holmes put much of Cupp’s struggles in week two on his own play calling.
“Kaden played really well but I think part of that is probably on me,” Holmes said. “I haven’t been using his running ability like we should have. We made a commitment last week to let him use his feet in the game plan.
“He did a great job both running and throwing, and I think just having him more involved in the game allowed him to play a lot better all around.”
Horne was the workhorse of the Gamecock offense rushing for a career high 224 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries.
“Kyan was huge for us,” Holmes said of his running back. “He was a beast. I was a little bit worried with him (carrying) the ball 40 times like that, but Saturday he said he felt really good. So, we’re happy about that.”
Hood had four catches for 52 yards and Marsh added three catches for 51 yards.
Linebacker Drew Cashin had eight tackles, while defensive end Josh Cardwell had seven tackles.