A solid first half of football by Blair created a deficit too big to overcome as the Nebraska City football team fell 35-14 on homecoming night at Pioneer Field.
The Bears scored twice in the first quarter and added two more scores before the half to lead 28-0.
Nebraska City found the end zone twice in the second half to erase Blair’s bid for a shut out and send the crowd home on a positive note.
Blair took the opening kickoff of the contest and marched 67 yards with the big plays coming on passes of 15 and 12 yards. The drive was capped on a short run and, after a PAT kick, Nebraska City trailed 7-0.
The two teams traded punts before a Pioneer interception set Blair up for its second score of the game, a 27-yard touchdown pass at the 2:12 mark of the first quarter. A PAT kick made it 14-0.
After a Nebraska City punt on the first play of the second quarter, Blair went on a 46-yard touchdown drive capped by an eight yard touchdown pass. The point after kick made it 21-0 with 9:53 left in the half.
Nebraska City took the ball after the kick off and marched to the Blair red zone thanks to Derek Riege runs which added up to over 30 yards. Blair stopped Nebraska City as the Bears turned away a 4th-and-9 play and took possession.
After punts by both teams, Blair scored on a one play drive on the last play of the half, a 45-yard scoring pass and PAT kick that made it 28-0.
An 11-yard run by Jake Kreifel and a 16-yard pass on a fake punt from Jared Nemec to Brennen Bales had the Pioneers marching early in the second half. An offensive pass interference call complicated matters, however, and Nebraska City would punt the ball away.
Blair went 70 yards on its first offensive of the second half. A 22-yard pass was followed later in the drive by a 27-yard touchdown pass and the PAT kick made it 35-0 with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
A 9-yard pass from Riege to Kreifel converted a 2nd-and-4 early in a Pioneer scoring drive that extended from the third to the fourth quarter. Becker had a 26-yard run and Riege rushed it in from five yards out on 3rd-and-3. Kreifel kicked the PAT and it was 35-7.
After forcing a punt, the Pioneers scored again. The drive, set up by a Dylan Knoell 33-yard punt return, featured a 14-yard Becker run and was capped by Bales on a 1-yard plunge. The PAT kick made it 35-14.
A fumble by Blair on its next possession kept the momentum going for Nebraska City. Bales caught a 13-yard pass early in the drive, but the march bogged down and the Pioneers eventually gave it up on downs.
Blair would then run out the clock and end the contest.
Looking at the stats, Nebraska City got 66 yards passing on six completions by Riege, who also had 60 rush yards. Becker had 88 rush yards and Kreifel had 19.
Bales had four catches and 65 yards. Kreifel had two grabs and 17 yards.
Defensively Bales had four solo tackles and 8.5 overall. Riege had three solos. Knoell, Trevor Wright, Nick Zaroban and Nicky Garcia all had two solos each.
With the loss, Nebraska City fell to 0-4 and will return to action on Friday at home against Waverly.
In reviewing the first half, Coach B.T. Kracl said the Pioneers struggled against a Blair defense that brought a lot of edge pressure. Kracl said the play calls went into the strength of that Blair pressure, and, as a result the Pioneers found it hard to move the ball.
“In the second half, we tried to stay between the tackles,” said Kracl. “We started moving the ball a little better. We started running inside zone some, and that was working.”
In addition to having a better strategy, Coach Kracl said the Pioneer players showed good fight in the final two periods.
Going forward, Kracl said his team will have to learn from its mistakes, build on the positives and, in all aspects, get better, if the team is to have a strong finish to the campaign.
“In some critical situations, we made some mistakes that hurt us and that is why we ended up where we ended up,” he said. “We’ve got to improve.”
The positive signs are there indicating that Nebraska City is capable of more.
“That’s a very good football team and we did a lot of good things against them,” Kracl said of Blair.