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Pirates survive late rally to win Homecoming game

Hillcrest quarterback Jared Schultz (10) battles for some extra yardage as Verndale's Zack Meidinger (26) and a teammate make a tackle last Friday in Verndale's Homecoming game. The Pirates squeaked out a 14-12 victory over the Comets.

Colby Schmidt came up with a clutch defensive play last Friday as the Verndale Pirates edged the Hillcrest Comets 14-12 in a Homecoming game at Mike Mahlen Field.

With senior quarterback Jared Schultz engineering an 80-yard drive in the closing minutes, the Comets closed to within two as Schultz hit Andrew Stender with a five-yard scoring pass with seven seconds left.

Schultz rolled to his left on a bootleg for the conversion points and put the ball up for big Andrew Hohncke but Schmidt batted the ball down.

"Two feet higher and a little quicker and Hohncke would have had that one," Hillcrest head coach Charlie Brue said.

The victory over the Comets marked the second time in two weeks that the Pirates found themselves in a dogfight. Verndale won a 32-8 victory over Bertha-Hewitt Sept. 25 but the game was tied at 8-all late in the third quarter.

Hillcrest brought a 3-1 record into their game with the Pirates and refused to let Verndale run wild. The Pirates led 8-0 at the half on a one-yard plunge by Amos Schmidt.

After Colby Schmidt scored on a one-yard run to help boost Verndale's lead to 14 in the final quarter, the Comets cashed in on a 28-yard pass from Daniel Tungseeh to Hohncke. Verndale's Jon Kohlhase blocked the extra point kick.

Amos Schmidt rushed 33 times for 150 yards in the win. The Pirates were limited to 189 rushing yards on the wet field. Colby Schmidt led the club with 12 tackles. Amos Schmidt and Zack Meidinger combined for 18 stops. Dan Kneisl recorded seven tackles and two sacks.

Schultz had 59 of Hillcrest's 102 rushing yards on 18 carries. The Hillcrest senior, who Mahlen had sized up as the Pheasant Conference's best quarterback before the season began, connected on 13 of 25 passes for 121 yards. Hohncke caught six balls for 95 yards.

Brue was impressed with the way the Pirates attacked on offense but credited his own club with a good defensive effort. The Comets are the first team this season to hold the Pirates to just 14 points. Brue felt that on a rainy night and a sodden field the game came down to line play, an area where the Pirates have shined all season.

"Their defense was quicker off the ball that our offense," Brue said.

The Pirates are now 5-0 with two road games remaining before they begin the defense of their Section 4 title. Friday's win, combined with a Stephen-Argyle loss, has moved the Pirates up to No. 3 in the Class Nine-man state poll. Kittson County Central and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley are ranked one and two in the poll.

The loss dropped the Comets to 3-2.

Verndale 14, Hillcrest 12

Hillcrest 0 0 0 12 -- 12

Verndale 0 8 0 6 -- 14

Hillcrest: Andrew Hohncke 28 yd pass from Daniel Tungseth (PAT failed), Andrew Stender 5 yd pass from Jared Schultz (PAT failed)

Verndale: Amos Schmidt 1 yd run (PAT A. Schmidt run), Colby Schmidt 1 yd run (PAT failed)

Vern. Hill.

First Downs 11 15

Yards Rushing 189 102

Yards Passing 24 149

Total Yards 213 251

Intercepted by 0 0

Fumbles lost 1 0

Passes 2-4 14-31

Penalties 5-55 6-35