ROSENDALE, Mo.—The South Holt/Nodaway-Holt Spartans trailed the North Andrew Cardinals by as many as 20 points Friday night in the district semifinals, but the Cardinals struggled to put the Spartans away. In the end, South Holt/Nodaway-Holt’s five turnovers cost them a chance for a rematch with Mound City in the district championship.
The Cardinals defeated the Spartans 56-54 and extended their winning streak over the SHNH that spans more than a decade.
The scoring started early for both teams. After two carries by Cardinal running back Logan Hughes, quarterback Jaden Baker scored on a 41-yard run. Hughes and Baker were everywhere for North Andrew as the two players combined to rush for 344 yards.
The Spartans did what they have done all season on their opening drive and that was letting quarterback Drew Quinlin air it out. South Holt/Nodaway-Holt found itself in a third and 14, but running back Taran Clark’s 41-yard catch and run quickly got the Spartans into the red zone. Quinlin then capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
South Holt/Nodaway-Holt had its issues stopping the run and most of those came on third or fourth and short. North Andrew converted two third and ones on it’s second drive and then scored on a fourth and one from the one-yard line.
Turnovers cost the Spartans in this game, and their first came on the ensuing kickoff when Houston Coleman fumbled the return. The Spartan defense did it’s best to keep the Cardinals out of the endzone by forcing a fourth and 10. Baker left the game just two plays earlier with a rib injury, but came back in time to find running back Ryan Wilmes for a 15-yard touchdown pass—giving the Cardinals a 22-6 lead.
The turnovers continued to haunt the Spartans on their third drive. Quinlin and the offense had moved into North Andrew territory, but pressure from the Cardinal defense forced an errant throw from Quinlin which was intercepted. The South Holt/Nodaway-Holt defense was helped by a holding call and a bad snap that lead to a North Andrew punt.
The Spartans needed a big play to get back to within striking distance and did that with help from one of their senior receivers. Clark’s 15-yard run got South Holt/Nodaway-Holt to the Cardinal 23, but three-straight incomplete passes led to a fourth and 10. That is when Quinlin found wide receiver Eric Ottman for a 23-yard touchdown.
Hughes took over on North Andrew’s fourth drive. After converting another fourth and one for the Cardinals, Hughes found the endzone for a 28-yard touchdown. The senior running back had four rushing touchdowns on the night. North Andrew head coach Dwayne Williams had high praise for his senior running back after the game.
“He’s the leader of our football team, on the field, off the field, at practice and everywhere we go,” Williams said. “We knew that was our plan for success was Logan Hughes running the ball for us.”
A failed onside kick gave the Spartans good field position at the North Andrew 30. Two plays later, Quinlin connected with Ottman once again, this time for a 27-yard touchdown.
“We knew from the start what kind of game it was going to be,” Williams said. “We knew they were going to score, we knew that we were just going to have to keep matching them.”
The Cardinals’ next answer came with the offense on the sidelines as Wilmes returned the kickoff 72 yards for a touchdown. The Spartans answered with their third turnover of the game, but North Andrew ran out of time and led 36-22 at halftime.
The Spartans had a chance to make it a one-score game after halftime. Quinlin connected with Ottman for 15 yards, but the North Andrew defensive line continued to put heavy pressure on the sophomore quarterback and that led to his second interception of the game.
“We just had too many things go wrong at the beginning of the game with the turnovers and the kickoff,” Spartan coach Josh Petersen said.
The Cardinals and Hughes continued to do what they wanted in the running game after the turnover. Hughes’ 69-yard touchdown run was his longest of the season. The score gave North Andrew a 42-22 lead.
South Holt/Nodaway-Holt answered with Quinlin’s third touchdown pass of the game. This time he found wide receiver Dylan Schuetz for a 29-yard touchdown. But North Andrew had an answer, and that answer was Hughes. Hughes answered Schuetz’s touchdown with his own, his fourth of the game.
The Spartans then started their rally and it was their running back who took over in the late third and fourth quarters. Clark scored a touchdown on a screen pass that he took 48 yards for a score. A North Andrew fumble gave South Holt/Nodaway-Holt the ball inside the Cardinal 20. Clark finished off that drive with a two-yard touchdown run, cutting the North Andrew lead to 48-46.
“Credit to my guys, you know we were down 20 and we came back,” Petersen said. “But I thought we played a hell of a, hell of a second half.”
Baker’s 24-yard touchdown run extended the lead back to 10, but Clark and the Spartans didn’t go down quietly. Clark again caught a screen pass that he took 24 yards for his third touchdown of the game. Clark finished the game with five catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns, while adding seven carries for 40 yards and a touchdown.
The South Holt/Nodaway-Holt defense made the stop it needed on the Cardinals’ next drive, forcing a three and out. Clark started the Spartans’ final drive with a 10-yard run, but a case of the drops hurt them in the end. Clark, Morris and Ottman each had drops on the drive — one was in the endzone. But each receiver made catches to get the Spartans down inside the five.
The Spartans’ season ended on one pass. Quinlin again found himself under duress and threw it into the endzone and straight into the hands of the Cardinals. The South Holt/Nodaway-Holt defense had a chance to get the ball back with just under eight seconds, but Hughes iced the game with a five-yard run on fourth and one. Hughes finished the game with 33 carries for 230 yards.
South Holt/Nodaway-Holt finished the season with a 5-6 record and though they are losing some key seniors, Petersen believes the future is bright for his young Spartans.
“We had some great senior leadership and they were some really great kids,” Petersen said. “But what we have coming up makes me think the future is pretty bright for us. We’re ready. The fire is there with these younger guys.”