By BRETT MARSHALL
SCOTT CITY — With just under seven minutes left Friday night in its Class 3A district game against Norton, the Scott City Beavers were sitting pretty with what appeared to be a comfortable 14 point lead in a game that was dominated by defense.
Then, Norton took advantage of a 10-yard punt off the side of the foot of punter Jordan Habiger and marched 56 yards in seven plays, aided by a personal foul call against the Beavers, and scored on an eight yard pass from Connor Pfannenstiel to Landon Hamel with just 5:32 left in the game to slice the deficit to what would be the final score, 14-6, after Calvin Erven blocked Cody Laughlin's extra point kick.
Scott City had to rely on its stingy defense the rest of the way as Norton's Hamel picked off a Ron Baker pass on the Beavers' next possession that set up the Bluejays at the Scott City 24 with only 4:43 left. Scott's defense held with the final play by Norton coming on an incomplete pass that would have been nullified anyway as Norton's Terrell Lane went out of the inside and came back into the field of play to try to make the catch.
The Beavers then used a dominant ground game to pick up three critical first downs to run out the clock and win the hard-fought game.
"It's the first full game we've had to play the entire way with our first team offense and defense," junior defensive back A.J. Kough said.
It was Kough's rundown of Lane, who had broke free from his own 9-yard line and appeared headed for a touchdown on the second series of the game. It may have signaled how this game would unfold.
"I'm not sure how he broke free," Kough said who came from his weakside safety position. "I just ran as fast as I could, had an angle and managed to catch up to him."
From that point through the remainder of the first half, the Bluejays offense sputtered against Scott City's defense which had registered four shutouts in their first seven games.
After a scoreless first quarter, Scott City (8-0, 2-0) marched 69 yards in 10 plays in a drive that consumed 4:02 off the clock when Dalton Smith dashed 15 yards with 9:57 left in the first half.
Scott City scored on its first possession of the second half after forcing a Norton punt. The Beavers drove 74 yards in 11 plays, consuming more than four minutes off the clock. Jason Williams' 3-yard plunge made it 14-0 with 4:58 left in the third quarter.
The Bluejays cameback in the fourth quarter sparked by quarterback Connor Pfannenstiel. The Norton signal caller hit Landon Hamel with an eight-yard scoring strike with just 5:32 left in the game, but Scott City's Calvin Erven blocked the extra point kick attempt by Caleb Laughlin to keep it at 14-6. That drive went just 56 yards following a 10-yard punt off the side of Habiger's foot.
Just two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Hamel picked off a Ron Baker pass and the Bluejays were back in business at the Scott City 24. The drive, though, stalled on the 12 after Ashton Draper dropped a pass from Pfannenstiel at the goal line on a first down play. After the Beaver defense held, their offense was able to run out the clock with three crucial first downs.
With Norton's defense focusing on Alex Swan and Smith, it was junior running back Jason Williams who carried the rushing game for the Beavers. He finished with 21 carries and 82 yards.
"It was pretty much the plan based on what our coaches saw on film," Williams said. "We knew they would be tough so we just took what they gave us."
Baker was 8-of-18 for 57 yards through the air. Norton's Pfannenstiel completed 6-of-14 passes for 100 yards.
The win secures the district title for Scott City. The Bluejays (5-3, 1-1) must win against Goodland on Thursday to claim a spot in the playoffs.
Scott City's stingy defense held Lane to just 88 yards on 11 carries, with 70 of those coming in the first half on the one long run.
Scott City 14, Norton 6
Norton 0 0 0 6 — 6
Scott City 0 7 7 0 — 14
SC — Dalton Smith 15 run (Jordan Habiger kick)
SC — Jason Williams 3 run (Habiger kick)
N — Landon Hamel 8 pass from Connor Pfannenstiel (kick blocked)
First Downs 7 14
Rushes-Yards 30-136 48-188
Passing Yards 122 57
Passes 6-16-0 8-18-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 3-17 5-34
Punts-Avg. 6-32.3 5-36.6
Norton — Lane 11-88, Perez 7-21, Pfannenstiel 10-29, Sproul 2-(-1). Scott City — Baker 5-(-17), Swan 8-28, Smith 10-77, Anliker 3-14, Williams 21-82, Noll 1-4.
Norton — Pfannenstiel 6-16-0-122. Scott City — Baker 8-18-1-57.
Norton — Hamel 3-62, Draper 1-32, Lane 2-28. Scott City — Swan 3-21, Hayes 1-17, Smith 1-1, Williams 1-(-2), Funk 2-20.