INGALLS — When Sabyan Showalter stripped the ball from an Ingalls runner on a kickoff, then returned it 45 yards for a score, it was a fitting way to end a game in the Gray County rivalry to open the season.
His score and the 2-point conversion gave South Gray an opening 58-12 win over the Bulldogs on the road.
The Rebels scored three times in the final seven minutes of the third period, following a 40-minute lightning delay, to put the game away in quick fashion due to the mercy rule.
Aaron Skidmore, a 6-2, 195-pound sophomore had four touchdown runs to pace a potent Rebel attack.
First-game jitters prevailed in much of the opening quarter. The Rebels broke the scoreless tie with just 15 seconds remaining in the first quarter when quarterback Austin Jantz hit Adam Thiessen for a 16-yard strike, capping a four-play drive.
They scored again late in the second when Skidmore crushed his way in from nine yards out.
South Gray capped the first-half scoring when Jantz capped a short, three-play drive to put the Rebels up 22-0 with 15 seconds to play in the half.
Ingalls, meanwhile, found itself victims of those early errors. The Bulldogs fumbled the ball away on just the fourth play of the game, which followed two consecutive penalties.
On their next possession, the Bulldogs turned it over on an interception by Kimble Martin, and then again in the second period on another Martin pick.
It was more Aaron Skidmore in the third as he scampered for 20 yards up the sideline for his second score of the night, and on South Gray’s next possession, he took it in from 29 yards out to put the Rebels ahead 34-0.
Ingalls finally got on the board when, following a pass interference penalty against South Gray, Antonio Escobedo ran it in from 29 yards out.
That was at 8:50 p.m., when lightning forced a delay.
At that point, the Rebels had already amassed 332 total yards, including 216 on the ground. Ingalls had a respectable 181 yards on 26 total plays, but they had the three turnovers to none for South Gray.
After a 40-minute delay, South Gray picked up where it left off, with Skidmore scoring on a 35-yard run, but Gillen countered that two possessions later with a 10-yard score, set up by a 25-yard pass play to Easton Irsik.
Jantz replied with a 45-yard run to put the Rebels ahead 50-12, before Showalter’s final heroics.
South Gray coach Jesse Hodgson, in his third season, was pretty pleased with his Rebels despite the slow start.
“Our guys have a ton of energy. Once that kicked in, we started having fun,” Hodgson said. “It’s a game these guys love playing, and they showed it. Right there at the very end, it doesn’t get too much more fun than that.”
Skidmore’s performance, coupled with strong senior leadership, showed what the Rebels can do this season, Hodgson added.
“This was a fun way to start the year,” he said.
Skidmore had 125 yards on 10 carries while Jantz had 160 on 16 carries.
Escobedo led the Bulldogs with 52 yards on 10 carries.
Ingalls coach Vestal Teeter acknowledged that his team, which went 7-3 last year and made the playoffs, were caught off guard this time.
“We weren’t as prepared as we should have been,” he said. “The one thing we’ve got to remember is, we lost this game last year and then we came back and made a run in the playoffs. In all actuality, it’s bragging rights for the county, but that’s all it is.”
The two teams are not in the same district, he noted.
“When your goal is to make state playoffs and make a run, you take it with a grain of salt,” Teeter said. “If they respond like they did last year, we’ll be fine.”
South Gray travels to Satanta next week. Ingalls is on the road to Chase and Spearville the next two weeks before returning to host Bucklin.