By ZACH TUCKER
Due to high winds blowing over the Hulbert scoreboard, the final game of the regular season for the Hulbert Riders was played at Northeastern State’s Doc Wadley Stadium. It was Senior Night for the Riders, and the Ketchum Warriors made the trip for what would be a high scoring game.
“We were very hyped up for this game knowing it would be our last high school football game ever,” Hulbert senior wideout Craig Potts said.
Hulbert’s senior quarterback Chris Vance put the first points up for Hulbert off a 9-yard touchdown run to take 7-0 lead in the end of first quarter.
The Rider defense stepped up in the first half, holding Ketchum to zero points and very little productivity on the offensive side of the football.
Vance, from the Warrior 32-yard line, converted a long touchdown pass to senior wideout Spenser Frye midway through the second quarter to increase their lead to 13-0 with plenty of time remaining in the first half.
“I knew the ball was coming to me, so I just ran hard and faked the defender out on the hitch route and found the end zone,” Frye said.
The following drive after his touchdown reception, Frye intercepted Ketchum quarterback Zach Royal’s pass with four minutes left in the first half to give the Riders the ball on their own 39-yard line. The Riders would take advantage of the turnover when junior quarterback Brandon Thompson then threw a 31-yard touch down pass to Potts.
“I caught the ball and I thought I was already in the end zone, then I realized I was ten yards short and ran it in the rest of the way,” Potts said.
After a three-and-out drive by Ketchum, sophomore running back John Hamby returned a Warrior punt 24 yards all the way back to the Ketchum 32-yard line to put the Riders in scoring position with 1:45 remaining in the first half.
Chris Vance led the offense off a 21-yard break away run to put the ball on the 6-yard line with just 12 seconds remaining before halftime. With just three seconds remaining, Vance would threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hamby. The touchdown, with the clock winding down, gave the Riders a 26-0 lead over the Warriors.
Vance and the rest of the Hulbert offense headed to the locker room with the game in control.
“Although we had quite a lead, we weren’t going to take our feet off the gas,” Vance said.
The Warriors would recover a Rider fumble on the opening kick of the third quarter and gain control of the football on the Hulbert 39-yard line.
Ketchum running-back Triston Bays got the Warriors on the scoreboard off a 3-yard touchdown run. That cut the deficit and they trailed Hulbert 26-6 with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The next Hulbert touchdown occurred with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter when Thompson broke away on a 39-yard touchdown run. This was the largest gain of the evening by either team.
The next Warrior possession, Thompson found himself in the right place at the right time and intercepted Royal’s pass and brought it back to the Ketchum 36-yard line, where the Riders began another scoring drive. From the 18-yard line, Vance found Potts in the end zone to put Hulbert up 39-6 with two minutes to go in the third.
Ketchum quarterback Zach Royal broke away on the following kick off and took it all the way to the end zone for a Warrior touchdown. That score late in the third quarter pulled the Warriors closer at 39-12.
In the fourth quarter, both teams added multiple touchdowns and when the last second of game clock ticked the score was 46-26.
“We were glad to send the seniors out with a win,” Hulbert head coach Mitchell Crittenden said. “These last few weeks I think we really found our identity.”
The Riders finished the season 3-7 with the win Thursday night. The Riders, though, finished 2-5 in District 2A-8 and missed the playoffs after making the playoffs in Class A in 2011.
“This program is on the rise,” Crittenden said. “We could have folded halfway through the season and given up, but we continued to fight and I am very proud of this group of young men. We will be returning quite a few key players and will be ready to play in 2013.”