After giving up 163 points in its first four games, the North Platte defense got some redemption on Friday night by making big plays against Fremont.The Bulldogs held on to a 17-14 lead late in the game at Bauer Field to get the team's first victory of the year.
"The defense was awesome," said Bernie Madison, who has now beaten Fremont in each of his four years as head coach of NPHS. "It was the difference. They were just doing it one play at a time and executing their assignments."
It was also the defense that scored the first touchdown for the Dawgs. Fremont (1-4) was driving into North Platte territory in the second quarter. The Tigers faced fourth down and two yards to go at the 22-yard line.
Quarterback Eliott Gloeb tried to throw a bubble screen toward the left sideline. But Keaton Hope read it perfectly, made the interception and raced all the way to the end zone for the score.
The lead was short-lived for the Bulldogs. In less than five minutes, Fremont tied the game on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Gloeb to Skyler Winters.
With a little less than four minutes left in the first half, NPHS quarterback Dylon Mlady lead the Dawgs down the field and he connected with Jack Kenny for a 37-yard touchdown pass with just 34 seconds left until halftime.
But that was enough time for the Tigers to tie the game and that what happened when Winters caught a bomb from Gloeb, shaked a couple of Bulldog defenders before taking it in for the touchdown with only 15 seconds left.
At halftime, the score was a deadlock at 14-14.
Fremont controlled the battle of field position in the second half much like it did in the first half, and that led to some scoring opportunities for the Tigers in the third quarter.
But on both trips into Bulldog territory, they were turned away. On the first visit, Shane Mauch recovered a Luke Hoesing fumble at the NPHS 16. Then later, Gloeb was intercepted by Shawn Farley at the 19 on a pass over the middle.
The third quarter stops helped give North Platte momentum for what proved to be the game-winning drive.
The Dawgs got going in the fourth quarter with running back Tyson Chromy carrying the ball. The compact 5-foot-6, 180-pound senior brought NPHS into Fremont territory at the 44 on a gain of 13. Then two plays later, on second and nine, Chromy found some room for a first down at the 26.
After three plays, the Bulldogs faced fourth and one and Madison opted to send Brandon Hedgecock out to try a 34-yard field goal. Hedgecock then drilled it home to give North Platte a 17-14 lead with 3:41 left in the game.
Since Fremont scored in just 19 seconds in the first half, the Tigers definitely had enough time to march down the field and on the ensuing drive, Gloeb led them down the field by completing passes to Winters, Zane Zentic and Jarrod Cox.
Fremont got first and goal at the seven after a 21-yard pass to Cox. But the Bulldog defense tightened up after that. They blitzed linebacker Jason Lienemann up the middle to shorten the amount of time Gloeb had to throw.
Gloeb's passes weren't as accurate and after three plays, the Tigers had gotten nowhere. Instead of attempting a game-tying field goal like they did playing the Bulldogs last year in the season finale, which they missed, they went all in.
Gloeb had Noah Voss open on the left side of the end zone. But Levi Thomlison knocked it away at the last minute to end the scoring threat with 2:06 left in the game.
"We flipped to a cover one so they couldn't have the same windows to throw to," Madison said.
With 2:06 left in the game after stopping Fremont, NPHS only needed one first down to ice the game. On first down, Chromy got seven of the 10 yards needed and on second down, Mlady got two on a quarterback sneak. On third and one, Chromy was stopped inches short.
Madison originally chose to go for it on fourth and less than a yard. But an illegal procedure penalty forced him to send Mlady back to punt.
Mlady's punt was downed at the Bulldog 47 with 19 seconds left. On first down, Gloeb found Zentic for a 14-yard gain and then he spiked the ball with six seconds left.
But on his last heave, Mauch came down with the ball just in front of the end zone with time having ran off. The North Platte defense finished the job.
"I don't know if you call it bend but don't break but they stayed within each other," said Madison.
Fremont 0 14 0 0 - 14
North Platte 0 14 0 3 - 17
NP-Keaton Hope 80 interception return (Brandon Hedgecock kick), 8:12
F-Skyler Winters 10 pass from Eliott Gloeb (Juan Marta kick), 3:47
NP-Jack Kenny 37 pass from Dylon Mlady (Hedgecock kick), :34
F-Winters 58 pass from Gloeb (Marta kick), :15
NP-Hedgecock 34 field goal, 3:41