MINDEN — On a dreary and breezy Friday night, it was fitting that the go-ahead points for Cozad came on a Minden snap that slipped through quarterback Braden Bates’ hands and resulted in a safety.
The mishap was part of a second-half meltdown for the Whippets, who failed to pick up a single first down on eight offensive series, and allowed Cozad to score 29 points in a 29-6 loss at Minden High School.
"First half, I thought we played extremely hard and did some good things," said Minden coach Jebb Hatch. "The second half we struggled with field position. We were in the shadow of our own goalpost most of the night and in this weather, it’s tough to go 80 yards. It makes it tough to throw the ball. We just didn’t finish offensive drives like we did in the first half."
The Whippets’ defense held Cozad (4-2) scoreless on its first two drives of the first quarter.
On the opening series of the game, Cozad running back Matthew Schuster found the edge and dashed for an 18-yard gain before being tripped up at the Minden 3. The Haymakers didn’t score, as they fumbled on a fourth-and-goal play from the Minden 1.
The Haymakers’ next drive ended in similar fashion. After they moved the ball into the red zone to the Minden 8, they gained just one yard, as the Whippets (3-3) stopped three rushing attempts and forced an incomplete pass.
Minden running back Eddie Gonzalez was responsible for the only points in the first half when he ran up the middle untouched for a 15-yard touchdown with about eight minutes left in the second quarter.
In the second half, the Haymakers capitalized on short field position.
They started in Minden territory on their first drive of the second half and scored five plays later on a Schuster 34-yard TD run. Schuster finished with 31 carries for 233 yards and two scores.
The Haymakers started their next drive at the Minden 36. They didn’t score but pinned the Whippets on their 9-yard line after a 35-yard punt.
On the second play of Minden’s drive, a high snap slipped through Bates hands and into the end zone. Bates had no choice but to fall on the loose ball, resulting in a safety for Cozad, who took an 8-6 lead.
With about seven minutes left, Cozad linebacker Conner Wescoat jumped a short-yardage pass attempt by Bates. He had no one in front of him and walked into the end zone for a 19-yard interception return.
The Haymakers led by nine points after the defense’s score and added onto their lead with two touchdown runs late in the fourth quarter.
"The two goal line stands were really big, as our defense stepped up after they had some really big plays," Hatch said. "In the third quarter, (the offense) wasn’t helping out our defense with not picking up a first down the whole second half. When you leave your defense out there for that long, it’s going to catch up to you."
Minden’s offense had negative yards in the second half and finished with just 158 yards of total offense. Gonzalez was the Whippets’ lone weapon on offense, as he accounted for 170 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries.
Gonzalez, who’s Minden’s all-time leading rusher with more than 3,000 yards in his career, pushed his season total to 166 carries, 997 yards and seven touchdowns.
"It looked like in the first half that there was some holes, but most of them, he was making on his own," Hatch said. "He’s kind of the heart and soul of the offense. When we need some tough yards, he’s going to get them for us. He was able to do that in the first half, but there was no where for him to run in the second half."
Up next, the Whippets face undefeated Adams Central (6-0) on Friday night at Hastings.
Cozad 29, Minden 6
Scores by Quarter
Cozad (4-2) 0 0 8 21 — 29
Minden (3-3) 0 6 0 0 — 6
Minden — Eddie Gonzalez 15 run (Gonzalez run failed)
Cozad — Matthew Schuster 34 run (Saw Htoo kick failed)
Cozad — Team safety
Cozad — Conner Wescoat 19 interception from Minden Braden Bates (Htoo kick good)
Cozad — Nolan Wetovick 2 run (Htoo kick good)
Cozad — Matthew Schuster 22 run (Htoo kick good)