CARDINGTON — Two teams playing only for bragging rights put on a classic in their KMAC season finale Friday night as the Pirates held off Mount Gilead, 22-20.
Cardington (2-7, 1-5) trailed the Indians 14-7 heading into the fourth quarter, but rallied twice to tie the game and then won it with 4:34 left to play.
“It was a typical Cardington-Mount Gilead football game. Both teams got after it and both teams battled,” said Indians coach Mike Reid.
“I was really proud of our defense tonight. In the end they had a couple big plays on us though.”
Those two plays — courtesy of juniors Ashton and Ayden Plowman — proved to be the difference.
Quarterback Nate Hickman, who has started 39 games in 4 years, hit Ashton with an 82-yard bomb with 3 minutes gone in the fourth quarter to put his team ahead 14-7. Hickman added the two-point conversion run.
The second was provided by Ayden Plowman, who broke free from his own 5-yard-line and went 95 yards for a score. Again Hickman ran in the conversion allowing Cardington to take a 22-14 lead with just 4:34 left to play.
Mount Gilead (2-8, 0-7) tied the game at 14 when Elijah Chafin found Logan High for a 16-yard touchdown. Garrett Lamb-Hart’s kick knotted the game with 4:50 left.
“These kids know each other too well and it’s always going to be a battle,” said Cardington coach Tod Brininger said.
The Indians drove 40 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 9-yard pass from Chafin to Paul Butterman. The duo tried to connect on the conversion but the ball fell incomplete in the end zone.
“It just comes down to a couple of plays; it’s a game of inches and winning a one-on-one,” Reid said. “Hats off to Cardington. They got a big win and battled hard.
“We’ve only got a couple of wins on the season, but we’ve come an awful long way.”
Chafin completed 16-of-30 passes for 194 yards and two scores. Butterman snagged 11 balls for 79 yards. Carter Kennon rushed 9 times for 33 yards.
Carter hit Chafin on a 32-yard pass in the first quarter that put Mount Gilead on top 7-6, a lead it would hold the fourth quarter.
Brininger’s squad loses 7 seniors.
“Nate Hickman obviously has been a 4-year starter at quarterback. As a freshman we had an upperclassman get injured and he started. He’s grown into a leader, an incredible leader.”
Hickman passed for 103 yards and rushed for 45 more on 15 carries. He and Eli Huffman each had an interception.
“Joe Denney is tough as nails. We didn’t get him as many carries tonight because something else was working, but he’s been a workhorse all year. He’s played since he was a freshman.”
Others contributed as well.
“Mason Davis and Mason Kinter came into their own this year. They didn’t play a whole lot last year and really stepped up and worked hard. Austin Henthorn hadn’t played since he was a freshman but came back out because he wanted to be with these guys. He made some great plays and he played on their number 14. Butterman, he’s a stud and he battled with him.
“Christian Phillips is one of our most vocal seniors and gave everything he had. Tyler Rose had some injuries. He had a fractured collarbone and convinced the doctor to clear him for tonight because he didn’t want to miss it. He works as hard as anyone and never complains about anything,” Brininger said.
Ayden Plowman rushed for 142 yards on 10 carries while Ashton Plowman caught 4 passes for 94 yards.
The teams were evenly matched on the stat sheet with MG getting 327 yards in total offense to Cardington’s 322. Time of possession was nearly equal and each squad committed a pair of turnovers.
Mount Gilead has been on a long journey dating back to last year.
“The journey is very, very difficult, but it starts coming into a program that only got to practice for a month last year while everybody else was getting 10, 12 weeks in. So we were a little bit behind to start with,” Reid said.
“That’s where all the memories are made. That’s where football goes beyond just a win or a loss or a championship or not a championship. We learn life lessons and that’s when the bonds are made that football players understand.”
The 8 departing Indian seniors are Carson Van Hoose, Butterman, Zach Congrove, Levi Stephen, Troy Likens, Justin Dendinger, Isaiah Fisher and Lamb-Hart.