Brandon Hedgecock became a Homecoming hero on Friday night.The senior kicker made a 34-yard field goal as time expired to send North Platte to overtime against Lincoln High.
Then in overtime, Hedgecock booted a 27-yarder home to give the Bulldogs a 27-24 win on Homecoming at Bauer Field.
"That was huge," said NPHS coach Bernie Madison. "Brandon's been solid all year long."
It appeared it was going to be a melancholy Homecoming after Marquis Kirklin scored a touchdown with 34 seconds left to put Lincoln High up 24-21.
But on what was seemingly the final play of the game, North Platte quarterback Dylon Mlady completed a pass over the middle to Jack Kenny at the Links' 35-yard line. But Lincoln High's Josh Matz was flagged for a horse collar tackle on the play.
The penalty put the ball at the 20 and more importantly, gave the Dawgs another play where Hedgecock had the opportunity to send the game into overtime.
That's what Hedgecock did as his kick cleared the uprights by a yard.
The Links got the ball to start overtime at the NPHS 10. But they couldn't put it in the end zone after three plays and Jose Perez-Blanco's field goal attempt went wideto the left.
Madison didn't waste any time on the Bulldogs' overtime possession, he trotted Hedgecock out for the first play for a 27-yard attempt in the middle of the field.
"I didn't want to risk fumbling or anything like that and we were in range," Madison said.
Like the first kick, Hedgecock put it through and won the game.
The game was a see-saw battle that provided a thrilling finish. But it built slowly.
Late in the first quarter, Shane Mauch came in for Mlady at quarterback to begin the Dawgs' third series of the night.
With Mauch at quarterback and Tyson Chromy at running back, North Platte (2-5) had some success on the read option which led to a five-yard touchdown run by Mauch on the first play of the second quarter.
But late in the first half, Lincoln High (2-5) got its ground game going with its running back duo of Kirklin and Jordan Snodgrass.
With a little over two minutes left in the first half, the Links got on the board when Payton Helmstadter punched it in on the quarterback sneak. The Bulldogs still held the lead though as Hedgecock blocked Perez-Blanco's PAT try.
After Mlady returned for a series to little success, Mauch was reinserted and the sophomore again led NPHS down the field and into Lincoln High territory.
The Dawgs faced fourth down and four yards to go from the 34 with less than a minute. Mauch ran an option to the left side of the field from the shotgun with Chromy trailing. But just as Mauch was about to be hit, short of the 30, he pitched not to Chromy but to Kenny who was running to the right side.
Kenny received the ball and got enough for the first down, but he wanted more, so he shifted to the left side to follow a convoy of blockers to the end zone for the touchdown and the Bulldogs had a 14-6 lead.
But with half a minute left, the Links had enough time to get some points and after Snodgrass returned the kick to midfield. Lincoln High got a first down before bringing Perez-Blanco in for a 43-yard field goal attempt on the last play, which he made to make it 14-9 at the break.
The score remained the same late in the third quarter when Mauch, who started the second half as the quarterback, threw an interception right to Mark Fotopulos, who was brought down at the Bulldog 23.
But NPHS caught a couple of breaks as the Links went in reverse after the turnover with a personal foul facemask penalty and a false start call. But on fourth and 37, North Platte was called for roughing the punter.
That was all the momentum Lincoln High needed as Snodgrass and Kirklin kept moving the chains in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
With 9:25 left in the game, the Links took their first lead of the game on a one-yard touchdown run by Helmstadter. Following the touchdown, Lincoln High went for two and got it with Helmstadter taking it in on a bootleg to the left side, making it 17-14.
Mlady came back in for Mauch and on third and 11, he completed a pass to Max Brown for a first down at the Link 47. Then Mlady threw to Kenny to the 13 on the next play.
On third and three from the six, Chromy caught a swing pass from Mlady and took it to the two for first and goal. Mlady then took it in on the next play to give North Platte the lead back with 5:28 to go.
Madison praised his senior quarterback, Mlady, for being ready after sitting on the bench for much of the game.
"He showed a lot of character there and he did what needed to be done," said Madison. "I told him that to play quarterback, you've got to have a short memory."
NPHS kicked away from Snodgrass but Hedgecock's kick went out of bounds, giving Lincoln High the ball at the 35 to start the ensuing drive.
From there, Kirklin did most of the work by getting big chunks of yards up the middle.
It wasn't hard to predict that he would be getting the ball but stopping the 5-foot-6, 220-pound senior back was another matter for the Bulldog defense on that drive.
"(Kirklin) really ran hard," Madison said.
Kirklin scored from seven yards out on first and goal with less than a minute left and it looked like Lincoln High would be getting its first victory over North Platte since 1998.
But the Links still had to get another stop. Hedgecock returned the kick to about the 30. Then on first down, Mlady completed a pass to Kenny for a first down for a gain of about 15.
On the next play, the Dawgs went into their bag of tricks when Mlady threw a lateral to Chromy, who tried to throw to Brown. But Tyson Wilson almost intercepted it before it fell incomplete with 10 seconds left.
On the next play, Mlady rolled to his left and tried to find Kenny on the left sideline. But the ball went off of Kenny's shoulder pads before coming down to the ground with two seconds left.
Then came the completion to Kenny, the horse collar penalty and Hedgecock's field goal to force overtime.
"It would have been easy for us to hang our heads and say, 'Here we go again.' " said Madison.
Lincoln High: 0 9 0 15 0 - 24
North Platte: 0 14 0 10 3 - 27
NP-Shane Mauch 5 run (Brandon Hedgecock kick), 11:55
LH-Payton Helmstadter 1 run (kick blocked), 2:35
NP-Jack Kenny 34 run (Hedgecock kick), :39
LH-Jose Perez-Blanco 43 field goal, :0
LH-Helmstadter 1 run (Helmstadter run), 9:25
NP-Dylon Mlady 2 run (Hedgecock kick), 5:28
LH-Marquis Kirklin 7 run (Perez-Blanco kick), :34
NP-Hedgecock 34 field goal, :0
NP-Hedgecock 27 field goal