Red Devils get a 44-36 win over Hardin

By 
Jason Stuart
Thursday, September 9, 2021
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Red Devil receiver Riley Basta puts his hands on a pass from quarterback Parker Buckley. Photo courtesy of Marcy Smith

A late takeaway sealed the game last Friday night as the Dawson County High School Red Devils squeaked out a hard-fought win over the Hardin Bulldogs on the road in a 44-36 final.

The Bulldogs trailed by eight points late and drove the ball deep into Red Devils territory on their final possession, but a prayer tossed up by Hardin quarterback Sean Mehling on a fourth-and-four was intercepted by the DCHS defense at their own 3 yard line to clinch the game. It was an exciting end to what had been a back-and-forth contest all evening.

The Bulldogs held the early advantage in the game, as they struck paydirt on their first possession after taking over from DCHS on downs. The Bulldogs drove down the field largely on the ground until Mehling completed a shuffle pass to one of his backs for a 14-yard touchdown to open the scoring. A successful two-point try gave the home team an early 8-0 lead.

The Red Devils struck back quickly on their ensuing possession. On the first play of the drive, senior quarterback Parker Buckley found wide receiver Riley Basta wide open down the left side for a 65-yard touchdown strike. Buckley hit Basta again for the two-point conversion to tie the game early in the first quarter.

After taking the ensuing kickoff, the Bulldogs embarked on a long, methodical march, chewing up yards on the ground. Mehling then found Trondon Monroy for a 40-yard pass on fourth down to give the Bulldogs firs-and-goal at the DCHS 5. Hardin running back Keyon Braided Hair-Fisher — who gave the DCHS defense fits all night — then plunged in with a five-yard TD run. The two-point try failed, but Hardin was back in the lead at 14-8 with time winding down in the first quarter.

The Red Devils finally answered midway through the second quarter, with their possession set up by a horribly shanked Hardin punt which started the DCHS drive on the Bulldogs’ 25. A 15-yard run by Cole Storlie gave the visitors first-and-goal and they didn’t waste any time after that. Buckley found Basta again on a slant route across the middle for a 10-yard touchdown pass. He once again hit Basta for the two-point conversion to give DCHS a 16-14 lead with 6:38 left in the second.

The Red Devils would score once more for good measure just before the half ended. Starting at their own 4 yard line, they went on a long march down the field backed by some nice running by Dawson Rowsey. Finally, with just 27seconds left in the half, Buckley hit Kobe Kutzler on a short slant from the Hardin 5 for another scoring pass. The quarterback ran it in himself for the two-point conversion and the Red Devils took a 24-14 lead into halftime.

The Bulldogs weren’t about to lay down, however, as their running attack really started to wear down the DCHS defense in the second half. Hardin received the second half kickoff and returned it 55 yards to set themselves up inside DCHS territory. On fourth-and-goal from the Red Devils’ 5 Mehling found Braided Hair-Fisher for a short touchdown pass to pull Hardin closer. The two-point try failed, making the score 24-20.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Red Devils got one of their most electrifying plays of the night, along with what turned out to be some important insurance points. Rowsey took the kick deep in his own territory and, helped by some nice blocking, found nothing in front of him but open field, returning the kick 76 yards for the score. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Red Devils had extended their lead to 30-20.

The Bulldogs drove the ball right back down on their next drive, again pounding it on the ground, but a botched pitch running play at the DCHS 15 led to a fumble that the Red Devils recovered. They then marched back down the other way, aided along by two big plays, one a 32 yard run ripped off by Storlie, the other a 27-yard hook-up between Buckley and Basta. The drive ended with Buckley hitting Rowsey from 14 yards out for yet another passing touchdown as the final seconds ticked down on the third quarter. The two-point try went wanting but the Red Devils had built a two-score lead with the score 36-20.

The Bulldogs just wouldn’t lie down, though. They drove down and scored again on their next possession on a 16-yard run by Braided Hair-Fisher and tacked on the two-point conversion to pull back within one score.

But while the Red Devils had a hard time stopping the Bulldogs on the ground, the Hardin side could not contain the Parker-to-Basta aerial connection. On the next DCHS possession Basta first reeled in a 27-yard pass to set the Red Devils up inside Bulldogs territory. The team then quickly ran up to the line and ran the identical play, this time resulting in a wide-open Basta hauling in a 36-yard touchdown strike. The two-point try was good and the visitors were back out in front 44-28.

Hardin just kept bouncing back though, as Braided Hair-Fisher gashed the DCHS defense for a 29-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to keep his team in the game. The outcome remained an open question until Mehling tossed up the interception in desperation on the Bulldogs’ final drive.

The Red Devils (1-1) will need to bring their “A game” with them this Friday night for their next contest, as the Billings Central Rams come calling. The Rams (1-0) defeated Custer County 17-9 last Friday in their first game of the year.

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