DEARBORN, Mo. — North Platte coach Jim Brockhoff stood addressing his players after the program’s first win in 13 tries — and nearly two years removed from the most recent victory. The Panthers didn’t forget what to do after a big win.
The players waited and waited to douse their veteran coach in ice water, erupting in cheers when the cold contents of the cooler found their mark after a 46-30 win over Mid-Buchanan on Friday at North Platte High School.
“Our kids have worked hard; we just hadn’t gotten one,” Brockhoff said. “I was a little worried there at halftime. We gave up some things. We probably should have been ahead. We were ducking our head a little bit. We found a way to battle back. I’m really proud of the way they battled back in the second half and played some Panther football through some adversity.”
North Platte (1-2, 1-0 KCI) seemingly took control with two first-quarter scores, seeking their first win since beating Mid-Buchanan 19-6 on Oct. 25, 2012.
Junior quarterback Anthony Hernandez opened the scoring with an 8-yard touchdown run, and the Panthers doubled their advantage to 14-0 after running back Jordan Hendricks broke free and scored from 56 yards out with about 2 minutes left in the opening frame. However, a disastrous second quarter left the hosts trailing at halftime.
A 9-yard scoring strike from quarterback Dalton Robinson to Bradyn Kemper broke the shutout for Mid-Buchanan (0-3, 0-1 KCI), and the same duo hooked up on an 18-yard touchdown play with less than a minute to go before halftime.
Hernandez dropped back to pass on the first play of the ensuing drive, didn’t find anyone open down field and scrambled backward toward his own end zone. The Dragons stripped the ball, and Sam Montgomery jumped on the fumble just before it rolled out of the end zone for a safety.
After a two-point conversion, Mid-Buchanan suddenly led 22-14 going into the locker room.
“First, it was upsetting,” said Hendricks, who finished with a game-high 165 rushing yards on 15 carries. “But coach got onto us and got us pumped up and ready for the second half. It’s a great feeling. Now, we’re all pumped up and happy. This brought us a lot closer together.”
North Platte immediately responded when Hernandez found Austin Shanks for a 38-yard score — the second-year starting quarterback’s first of five second-half touchdown passes – to cut the deficit to 22-20.
Hernandez connected with Jerry Copenhaver from 35 yards out to give the Panthers the lead back at 26-22, but Solomon Rush put the Dragons ahead for the final time after intercepting Hernandez and returning it for a touchdown.
North Platte scored the game’s final 20 points all on Hernandez passes — Kyle Ewing (23 yards), Copenhaver (18 yards) and Hendricks (37 yards) respectively.
“Attitude,” Hernandez said. “Attitude is everything. Confidence and keeping our heads up, playing as a team. It’s the best team I’ve ever played on. (The first win) is such a relief. I’ve never won a game, and to win with these guys, it’s just amazing.”
North Platte travels to Lawson on Friday to face the Cardinals, who enter 2-1. Lawson is on a 2-game winning streak after rebounding from a Week 1 45-14 loss to Class 3 powerhouse Maryville.
“I think we’ve got a lot of confidence now,” Brockhoff said. “We just have to keep getting better, clean things up on both sides of the ball and just keep battling. We’ll watch film, and I’m sure there’s things we should definitely work on. I’m sure there’s good things we can learn from too. You can learn from both good and bad. The game was not perfect, but we had a lot of great things happen tonight.”