CONCORDIA – Playing on turf for the first time this season, the Abilene Cowboys showed signs of improvement in week two following a shut out loss on the grass in their home opener.
Friday night in Concordia, the Cowboys got their offense working late in a 13-7 loss to the Panthers on the two-year old turf surface. On the grass at home, the Cowboys struggled to get anything working in a 29-0 loss at the hands of the Clay Center Tigers. But finally, Abilene senior quarterback Jackson Randles gained some confidence in the Abilene passing game late in the fourth quarter.
Unable to run the ball successfully against the Panthers, the Cowboys called on Randles to work through the air. Trailing 13-0 with under three-minutes to play in the game, Randles found sophomore receiver Kaleb Becker streaking down the right side line for a 43-yard bomb that set the Cowboys up for their first score of the season.
“These kids haven’t let up at all,” Abilene head coach Steve Simpson said after the game. “They worked real hard this week. We simplified some things and we played better. We were a better football team today than we were last week. We have got to be better on next week. We have just got to keep improving, working hard together and pumping each other up.”
Randles unofficially went 10 of 21 for 190 yards through the air on Friday night. Abilene was only able to net 41 yards on the ground. Becker’s good looking catch and run took the ball to the Panther 15-yard line and four plays later, Randles found senior receiver Chrisxavier Cease running to the right corner of the end zone for the Cowboys first touchdown of the season. Becker kicked the point after and the Cowboys had pulled within six at 7-13.
Becker attempted an on-side kick but the Panthers smothered the ball and then were able to run out the game clock and survive for their first win of the young season.
Concordia scored for the first time in the game with 1:24 remaining in the opening period on a three-yard run by sophomore running back Keyan Miller. It was the Panthers second possession of the game and they were able to string together a drive together beginning at their own 15-yard line to march up the field for the opening score.
That score, 7-0, held until the 4:27 mark of the final period when Miller ripped off a 10-yard scamper for the Panthers. The kick of the extra-point failed and Concordia led 13-0 with four and half minutes remaining in the game.
The Cowboys covered a squib kickoff by the Panthers at Abilene’s own 42-yard line to begin its final drive. Abilene was able to get two first downs in the scoring drive on runs by Randles and senior fullback Zachary Juhl. After an incomplete pass on third down and 1:15 showing on the clock and Becker being tackled in the end zone for a holding penalty, the Cowboys got renewed life with a repeat of third and goal from the three. Randles threw a near perfect strike to Cease and the Cowboys were on the board.
“There are just some little things that we need to fix and we still got guys out there that need more experience,” Simpson said.
The game was another loss for the inexperienced Cowboys (0-2) but coach Simpson saw a lot of positive improvement from his team. Abilene continued to struggle running the ball and the coach said they are searching for offensive linemen who can block.
“We are still looking for the right guys up front,” he said. “We have got to find someone who can block. We will work on that this week before we play Chapman.”
Unofficially, the Panthers were able to run through the Cowboys defense for all most 300 yards on the ground. This created another concern for the Cowboy coach when talking about the play of his defense.
“We did some things better but we have got to keep getting better,” Simpson said. “We need to try some kids at some spots and see if they can do better. We are still trying to find out who is going to make some plays for us.”
Although inexperienced on defense, the Cowboys had some big plays from senior Kade Funston who recovered a Panther fumble to thwart a fourth quarter scoring drive. Junior linebacker Robbie Keener had a third quarter fumble recovery and junior lineman Karsen Loader had a key tackle for loss also in the third period to stop the Panthers. Junior Devan Fouliard had a big play in the first half as he batted away a possible scoring pass by Panther quarterback Cav Calgren.
Abilene travels to Chapman (0-2) on Friday for the Dickinson County Showdown and both teams are looking for its first NCKL win of the season.
Contact Ron Preston at email@example.com.
Concordia 13, Abilene 7
Abilene 0 0 0 7 – 7
Concordia 7 0 0 6 – 13
Concordia – Miller three-yard run. Alwood kick.
Concordia – Miller 10 yard run. Kick failed.
Abilene – Cease three-yard pass from Randles. Becker kick.