(Grant City) -- The Worth County Tigers stay perfect as they outlast the Stanberry Bulldogs 34-20 and advance to the 8-man District 4 finals next week.
After defeating the Bulldogs 76-16 in the regular season, Stanberry put up more of a fight the second time around, but a quick start for Worth County offensively gave them a 20-0 lead in the first quarter.
"We knew coming into game that they were going to play a lot better then they did last time, so we knew we had to come in and grind," running back Alex Rinehart said. "At the end of the day, we played really good. We had some turnovers, but we'll get back and fix them next week."
Quarterback Aydan Gladstone would be the first to strike for the Tigers on a five-yard quarterback keeper set up by a punt return from Braxton Highshoe setting up the offense from Stanberry's seven-yard line.
After stalling out the ensuing Bulldogs drive at their 15-yard line, the Tigers marched 51 yards down the field. Then, running back Alex Rinehart made his presence felt with a powerful 14-yard touchdown run.
"We stuck with our basic run game, running some smash leads and stuff, and really didn't try to open up and throw the ball early on until the second series," Adwell said. "We had a little success there throwing it, but it made a factor in the game in the second quarter when we didn't have the wind, so it played a big role."
Worth County's third and final score of the first quarter and the half came through the air as Gladstone was able to find tight end Jackson Runde for a 22-yard touchdown grab.
In the second quarter, Stanberry began to make their presence felt as they opened the quarter with a 7-play, 52-yard drive resulting in quarterback Austin Schwebach hitting a wide-open gap on the right side of the line for the Bulldogs first score of the game.
"Stanberry did a really good job," Adwell said. "They had their kids coached up and schemed up real well."
On the ensuing offensive possession for the Tigers, it looked like they may have been able to put the game out of reach. They had started to put together a phenomenal drive consisting of 13 plays, 63 yards and chewed up over 6:30 of the game clock. But, the Bulldogs stood tall deep in their territory, forcing a turnover on downs at their two-yard line. However, with just over a minute left and facing a stout Tigers defense, the game would remain 20-6 at the half.
"You know we just come in and keep doing the same thing we've been doing, filling gaps, filling lanes, and we can't miss tackles because they'll break them for a touchdown," Rinehart said. "But we just kept doing the same thing and it really worked for us tonight."
The Tigers' defense would force two punts and two turnovers on downs in the first half, allowing a total of 80 yards, 52 of which came on the Bulldogs one first-half touchdown drive.
It was a tough third quarter for the Tigers, with their three third-quarter drives resulting in two lost fumbles, and a three and out, amounting to just 31 yards of offense. Meanwhile, Stanberry would close the gap to 20-14 after running back Tucker Schieber ripped off a 36-yard touchdown run.
However, then the fourth quarter arrived, and Alex Rinehart went off. The sophomore back would find the end zone twice in the fourth quarter and amounted to nearly 90 yards in the final quarter alone.
"He seems to get stronger as the game goes on, and he's got a good motor, and he's got good kids around him too," Adwell said. "They want him to be successful too, and they're doing so much for one another. It's good to see this year that they're really playing for one another.'
Rinehart would finish the night with 33 carries, 196 yards, and three touchdowns and seemed to get better as the night progressed, ripping off 30 and 26-yard touchdown runs in the fourth.
"You know I think we just wore them down, and the line they kept blocking real hard like they were all game," Rinehart said. "I think we just kept playing harder than them all game."
Meanwhile, Gladstone finished the night 5/8 with 87 yards and his touchdown pass and led the Tigers' defensive effort with eight tackles.
With the win, Worth County moves on to face East Atchison next week after the Wolves took down Platte Valley 40-14. Adwell says the victory is a big confidence booster moving forward.
"It's always tougher when you play someone the second time in a year, so we knew it was going to be just downright a dog fight, and every game is going to be a new challenge," Adwell said.
You can watch the full video interviews with Alex Rinehart and head coach Jon Adwell below.