By KEVIN THOMPSON
TRIBUNE — The Greeley County football team has taken to using jackrabbit starts, and not the kind that cause poor gas mileage in cars.
The Jackrabbits have started slowly in all four of their games this season, but the road has been smoother the other three quarters.
That was the case Friday night as Greeley County (3-1) handed Dighton (3-1) its first loss of the season, 52-34, in 8-man play.
Dighton scored first after stopping Greeley County's first two drives of 13 and four plays that consumed over eight minutes of clock. Ryan Kuhlman completed a 33-yard strike to Ben Speer for the quarter's only score.
Then the second quarter came, and that's when the Jackrabbits took off.
After Stephen Houston intercepted Kuhlman, Kyler Wineinger bounced off his own blocker and sprinted up the left sideline for a one-play, 43-yard score.
Guy Fullmer answered with a 16-yard run after the Jackrabbits fumbled. Then Wineinger scored again, a 16-yard run off a quick handoff straight up the middle with just more than a minute to play in the half.
A.J. Govert recovered the onside kick, and with 11 seconds left in the half, Jonathan Miller hit Houston with a short pass play as the Jackrabbits built a 24-14 halftime lead.
The Hornets struck quickly in the third quarter when Fullmer scored from a yard out just after halftime, then again when they took advantage of an errant punt and Fullmer scored from 24 yards out. The 26-24 Hornet lead was their last.
On the next series, Miller shook two tacklers for a 30-yard touchdown run.
The Jackrabbit defense gang tackled Kuhlman on a fourth-down conversion, and Miller scored on a 34-yard run two plays later.
The defense stopped Dighton on downs again near the goal line, and on the ensuing series Miller hit Govert with a short pass over the middle as the Jackrabbits built a 46-26 lead.
Miller scored Greeley County's final touchdown when he picked off Kuhlman and returned it up the sideline 43 yards.
"It was a great battle," Greeley County coach Greg Brown said, even with his team's slow start.
The Jackrabbits have managed to overcome their slow starts.
"We just keep hitting away and keep going, and our big backs take a toll after a while," he said. "People don't seem to want to hit them anymore, and it seems like we get big gains."
Brown knew his team had to focus on stopping Fullmer on the ground, and when the Jackrabbits built their big leads, that forced Dighton to go to the air more.
Fullmer ran for more than 200 yards, but Brown's defensive stops on critical drives in the fourth quarter offset that.
"Our defense has been kind of a struggle for us," Brown said. But the Jackrabbit defense stepped up in big ways in this game.
Miller was happy with the win, especially on homecoming night, but he expressed his frustration over his team's first-quarter woes.
"I hate coming out every game and no matter what we do we can't get the first score on the board," he said. "I think it's the fear of the other team getting up a bunch that motivates us after that."
The senior quarterback ran for two touchdowns, threw for two and ran back an interception for another.
But is he ever grateful for having Wineinger in the backfield with him, giving the Jackrabbits two rushing threats.
"He has stepped up so much this year," Miller said of Wineinger. "None of us expected him to step up this much."
Playing in just his second full game in the backfield, Wineinger had 207 yards rushing.
"It's a lot of hard work in the off-season," Wineinger said. "That, and the offensive line was outstanding. They really show improvement since the off-season, too."
And to cap off a perfect night, he was crowned homecoming king at halftime.
Dighton coach Faron Kraft had nothing but praise for his opponents.
"It was a big game, and that was the best team we've seen," he said. "If they play like that every night, I don't see anybody beating them the rest of the season. That's a very, very good team."
Kraft admitted his team made too many mistakes, but even with a number of young players, he still feels good about his Hornets bouncing back after going 3-0 to start the season.
"The kids are in pretty good shape," he said. "Their confidence is still up."
After playing 11-man for a number of years, Kraft added that his team is still adjusting to the 8-man game.
"It's so much quicker, and you have to react so much quicker. It's been an adjustment, but we'ere getting there," he said.
Greeley Co. 52, Dighton 34
Dighton (3-1) 6
Greeley Co. (3-1)
D - Kuhlman 5 pass to Spper (run failed)
G - Wineinger 43 run (Miller run)
D - Fullmer 16 run (Kuhlman pas to Shaffer)
G - Wineinger 16 (Miller pass to Houston)
G - Miller 12 pass to Houston (Miller run)
D - Fullmer 1 run (run failed)
D - Fullmer 24 run (pass failed)
G - Miller 30 run (Miller pass to Houston)
G - Miller 34 run (pass failed)
G - Miller 3 pass to Govert (Miller pass to Houston)
G - Miller 43 interception return (pass failed)
D - Fullmer 8 run (Kuhlman run)
RUSHING--D - Fullmer 26-207, Shaffer 7-22, Kuhlman 6-16, Stanley 1-1. G Wineinger 22-
207, Miller 29-159.
PASSING--D - Kuhlman 7-13-2-125. G - Miller 3-9-0-42.
RECEIVING--D - Speer 2-84, Shaffer 3-30. G - Houston 2-39, Govert 1-3.