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Michael Weber / Bismarck Tribune, Published October 26 2013

South Border slips past Hatton-Northwood for football victory

WISHEK, N.D. – Hatton-Northwood needed 15 yards on a fourth-down play in the game’s closing seconds Saturday to keep a potential game-winning drive alive.

South Border defenders Tucker Meidinger and Joel Weber made sure the Thunder only got 14.

Meidinger and Weber teamed up to stop H-N receiver Jace Pederson in his tracks on the Mustangs’ 9-yard line – a yard short of the first-down marker – with 16.9 seconds left to force a turnover on downs and secure a 22-20 North Dakota 9-man state first-round playoff victory.

The Thunder had moved from their own 27 to a first down on the Mustangs’ 18 before the South Border defense stiffened. After a first-down incompletion, Trevor Meidinger and James Thieles dropped H-N quarterback Jacob Pladson for a 5-yard loss. After another incompletion, Pladson connected with Pederson downfield, but Tucker Meidinger and Weber tackled the receiver almost immediately, denying the Thunder a new set of downs.

“We weren’t sure who (Pladson) was going to go to. All of us just had to watch our guys close,” Tucker Meidinger said. “We kind of thought that he might go underneath and let the receiver make the play. Either way, we all knew that we had to make a stop. We had to end it there.”

The Thunder also marched into South Border territory on their previous possession, but the threat ended when Weber stretched out to bat away a fourth-down pass near the Mustangs’ 35.

The South Border defense rose to the occasion after allowing touchdowns on three straight H-N possessions. The Mustangs (7-2) had led 22-0 early in the third quarter.

“Hatton is a playoff team, and we knew they weren’t going to quit,” South Border coach Bryan Schumacher said. “They have good athletes, and they put up big numbers all year. They came back and they had the momentum, but our defense stepped up big when we needed it. We have a lot of faith in our defense.”

The South Border offense took full advantage of H-N mistakes, converting three turnovers into touchdowns. A Thunder fumble on the Mustangs’ 40 led to Tucker Meidinger’s 1-yard scoring run with 6:15 left in the first quarter. Brayden Kuntz added the 2-pointer to give the home team an 8-0 lead.

Five plays after the ensuing kickoff, South Border got the ball back on its own 43 on a Tucker Meidinger interception. The senior running back later scored from six yards out to cap an 11-play drive. Meidinger had a game-high 138 yards rushing on 24 carries.

An H-N fumble on the second-half kickoff put the Mustangs’ offense on the Thunder 29. Five plays later, Kuntz scored on a 6-yard run and quarterback Matt Rueb ran for the 2-pointer to make it 22-0 with 10:03 left in the third quarter.

“This is playoff football, and you can’t make the mistakes that we made and expect to win,” H-N coach David Smith said. “You have to play almost mistake-free football because the other team is going to make you pay. South Border made us pay.”

South Border will take on top-ranked Cavalier on Saturday in a quarterfinal game.

HN 0 0 12 8–20

SB 8 6 8 0–22

SB–Meidinger 1 run (Kuntz run)

SB–Meidinger 6 run (pass failed)

SB–Kuntz 6 run (Rueb run)

HN–Ellis 5 run (kick blocked)

HN–Holden 7 pass from Pladson (pass failed)

HN–Pederson 27 pass from Pladson (Pederson pass from Pladson)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: HN, Ellis 21-54, Holden 11-30, Pladson 7-23. SB, Tu. Meidinger 24-138, Kuntz 19-65, Bettenhausen 14-42, Rueb 2-3, Jacobson 3-(minus-9).

PASSING: HN, Pladson 15-28-1 188 yards. SB, Rueb 0-3-1 0.

RECEIVING: HN, Pederson 5-78, Holden 4-57, Carillo 4-44, Ellis 2-9.