By TONY EIERDAM
DUBLIN – The popular six man football website, sixmanfootball.com, has credible approval among fans of the six man high school football game when it comes to its rankings of all six man teams in the state.
Most fans of the site would probably agree in the past years the site has been pretty spot on concerning rankings, and it is an unenviable task to rank the teams each week with the inevitable criticism that follows such a deed.
So when football fans came to Dublin to watch No. 22 Lometa face the No. 50 Gordon Longhorns, many expected the up-and-coming Hornets to win in a walk, especially considering the ‘Horns began the season at 1-4.
But not so fast.
While six man fans were thinking about the rankings and how the game may turn out, Gordon was just simply thinking about football.
Paced by a quick 20-0 lead that saw three different Longhorns score, Gordon (7-4) raced past the stunned Hornets on its way to a convincing 44-28 victory here Friday night in a six man, Region II, Division I bi-district playoff game.
The Longhorns will advance to the regional round and face Savoy. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Springtown.
“We don’t worry about rankings, we just concern ourselves with football,” first-year Gordon head coach Joe Kostiha said. “This is the time of the year that matters.
“We were 1-4 early in the year and everybody was doubting us. But we just kept playing and getting better every single day, and that is a tribute to our kids and the tremendous leadership our seniors have given.
“It would have been very easy to not keep playing hard after starting 1-4, but these guys never quit.”
After stopping the Hornets on the first series of the game, the Longhorns put together a seven-play, 72-yard drive that ended on a 20-yard touchdown pass down the middle from Seth Wheeler to Jacob Wigington.
Two big plays in the drive were a 16-yard keeper by Wheeler on third and 14, and a Wheeler pass of 25 yards to Garret Collins for another first down.
Jeremy Jorgensen booted the two-point kick to give Gordon an 8-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Wheeler caught a 33-yard pass from Seth Allen for a touchdown as Gordon led 14-0 at the half.
Receiving the second-half kickoff, Gordon gave itself comfortable breathing room when it scored after a six-play, 55-yard rive that ended on a 26-yard TD pass from Allen to Brandon Gonzales. A big play in the drive was a 35-yard run by Wigington.
The PAT kick was blocked as Gordon led 20-0 with 7:29 left in the third period.
“Seth Wheeler was making it happen when we got the 20-0 lead,” Kostiha said. “We were running the spread and he was running and throwing well, and Wigington was catching the ball and we were doing a lot of things very well.
“They couldn’t guard Wigington. That was a matchup that we wanted to exploit.”
Trent finally found its offense and used six plays to reach the end zone as quarterback Eric Nichols sprinted 30 yards to pay dirt with 5:08 left in the third. The PAT kick was wide as the Hornets cut the Longhorns’ lead to 20-6.
Gordon stretched its lead to 28-6 with 47 seconds left in the third as Wigington capped an eight-play, 45-yard drive with a one-yard blast up the middle to the end zone. Jorgensen booted the PAT for a 28-6 advantage.
Lometa came back with a score and a PAT, but the Longhorns matched the scored after putting together a nine-play, 50-yard drive that was finished with a four-yard Allen-to-Wheeler TD pass as Wheeler was all alone on the left side of the end zone after Lometa fell for an Allen play fake. With 7:18 left in the game, Jorgensen booted the PAT to give Gordon what seemed like an insurmountable 38-14 lead.
Lometa then showed why it is ranked No. 22. The Hornets came right back and scored on a quick four-play drive culminating in a 24-yard pass from Nichols to Kyle Molter as the Hornets cut the lead to 36-20.
Gordon, trying to run out the clock with 5:23 remaining, threw a pass on third down that was intercepted, giving Lometa new life.
The Hornets took advantage and raced down field and scored on a 15-yard touchdown run by Shane Stone. With 4:44 left to play, the PAT kick was good as Lometa cut the lead to 36-28.
Gordon recovered the ensuing onside kick and looked to run out the clock.
With two minutes remaining, Lometa jammed the line and sent everyone on a run blitz, but the gamble failed. Wigington, behind picture-perfect blocking, busted through the line, cut right and was free. Fifty-nine yards later he jubilantly crossed the goal line for the touchdown that clinched the bi-district championship. Jorgensen’s PAT kick gave the ‘Horns a 44-28 lead.
To end any doubt of a comeback, the Longhorns recovered their ensuing onside kick and finished the game in the “victory” formation.
“Everyone was up on the line, and once he (Wigington) broke free he was off,” Kostiha said.”It was a really good run, but more so a tribute to the blocking we had on that play.”
The former Longhorn-turned-Gordon-head coach was all smiles after the contest.
“It feels good to win that first playoff game as Gordon’s head coach,” Kostiha said. “But more so I feel good for the kids who keep working hard to get better.
“Lometa is as good as anybody we will face, and they played (No. 8) May tough last week. When you get a big win against a really good team it is a big confidence booster.”