OVERTON — Chants of "Go Big Red" rained through the crisp November air as the Pleasanton Bulldogs ran towards their sidelines after Monday night’s game against Overton.
The seventh-seeded Bulldogs accumulated just 64 yards of total offense but managed to escape with a 12-6 victory over the eighth-seeded Eagles in a Class D2 football semifinal game in Overton.
The victory pushes the Bulldogs into their first-ever state championship game. They will face undefeated Humphrey St. Francis (12-0) at 2:45 Monday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
"We have been the underdogs all year long," Pleasanton coach Ricci Westland said. "You know how the papers pick. We’ve been proving people wrong. We are just going to try to go on that and build on the successes from this game. If we can stop a big team like Overton on fourth-and-short four times in a game, then we can find some success down in Lincoln."
Overton (8-4) racked up 301 yards of total offense but six turnovers allowed Pleasanton (10-2) to remain within striking distance.
After a missed field goal by the Bulldogs, the Eagles took over on downs at their own 15-yard line with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left.
But on a second-and-13 play from the Pleasanton 36, senior quarterback Ryan Johnson heaved a pass down field that landed in the hands of Bulldog linebacker Brady Klein with 31.8 seconds left.
The Eagles finished the game with four fumbles lost, one interception and one punt blocked.
"We panicked. And in panic mode, we didn’t perform well," Overton coach Paul Heusinkvelt said. "Our mistakes killed us in the end."
The go-ahead score came with less than eight minutes left and after the Bulldogs recovered a poor snap on an Eagle punt attempt at the Overton 3.
The Bulldogs ran two straight quarterback sneaks with Jakson Keaschall, who snuck into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs ahead 12-6.
"We talked about all week about playing our game, capitalizing on opportunities that present itself and eliminating mistakes," Ricci Westland said. "We still had mistakes, but we capitalized on mistakes and that was the difference."
Ryan Lauby broke free for a 55-yard touchdown about three minutes into the game, giving Overton an early 6-0 lead.
The Eagles had numerous chances to add on, but a lack of execution haunted them throughout the first half.
They failed to score on their next three drives, despite moving the ball to at least the Pleasanton 10-yard line each time, including one drive where they need just one yard to score.
With about eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Eagles attempted a punt. Tyce Westland and Kessler Dixon broke through the Overton offensive line and blocked the punt, recovering the loose ball at the Overton 2.
The Bulldogs attempted two running plays and two passes but failed to score. They caught a break, however, and scored two plays after turning the ball over.
Overton’s Elijah Heusinkvelt fumbled and Keaschall recovered the ball and returned it for a 17-yard score.
"I am just pleased with the amount of heart my boys showed. Just a tremendous job," Ricci Westland said. "It was all heart because you get in that situation with your backs against the wall.
"You have Overton, who has a power-run game and has run through teams all season long and you get them fourth-and-short and stop them two or three times in critical situations on the field. ... Our kids just found a way."
Overton made a remarkable run to advance to the semifinals. They defeated one-loss CWCE and had road victories over Garden County and Central Valley, both who were undefeated, prior to Monday’s game.
This is the farthest the Eagles have advanced in the playoffs since 2013.
"They have great character and determination, and they have a lot of heart," Paul Heusinkvelt said. "That’s what led to us being where we were at."
Pleasanton 12, Overton 6
Scores by Quarter
Pleasanton (10-2) 0 0 6 6 — 12
Overton (8-4) 6 0 0 0 — 6
OVERTON — Ryan Lauby 55 run (Elijah Heusinkvelt run failed)
PLEASANTON — Jakson Keaschall 17 fumble recovery (Keaschall pass failed)
PLEASANTON — Keaschall 1 run (Keaschall pass failed)
RUSHING — Pleasanton: Kessler Dixon 10-1-0, Jakson Keaschall 9-(-14)-1, Treven Wendt 1-(-5)-0. Overton: Ryan Johnson 9-5-0, Elijah Heusinkvelt 29-150-0, Ryan Lauby 23-135-1.
PASSING — Pleasanton: Jakson Keaschall 9-21-0, 82 yards. Overton: Ryan Johnson 1-4-1, 10 yards.
RECEIVING — Pleasanton: Kessler Dixon 5-42-0, Tyce Westland 3-45-0, Treven Wendt 1-(-5)-0. Overton: Elijah Heusinkvelt 1-10-0.