Cougars squeak by Raiders in season opener

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A Cougar player escapes the grasp of a south player

Click-clack, click-clack, hut, hut, go. The names are different. The star players are gone. But the feeling under the Friday night lights still remains the same.

On Sept. 4, the varsity football team took to the turf for their season opener against the SM South Raiders. After losing key offensive and defensive players from a year ago, the Cougars are working to regain their competitive edge and make a strong push for the playoffs.

This campaign suffered a serious blow before the first ball was even snapped. Starting senior running back Trey Jacobson suffered a broken arm earlier this week in practice and is out for an undetermined amount of time. Even so, the team was able to outlast the Raiders for a victory, 23-15.

The Cougars started out a bit lethargically in the first two drives, trading punts with the Raiders. After a punt by quarterback Matt Nowak pinned the Raiders on their own 10-yard line, South quarterback Grant Hilton was sacked in the end zone for a safety. On the following drive, Nowak connected with wide receiver Kosh Khan for a 47-yard touchdown pass to post an early 9-0 lead.

Maintaining their momentum, the Cougars stifled a Raider drive with an interception by junior defensive back Stephen Manglesdorf, who had two interceptions. Running back Casey Waterman kept the offense rolling with multiple first down runs, and Nowak showed some speed on his feet while scrambling for a 20-yard touchdown.

Up 16-0 late in the second quarter, the Cougars appeared to be trying to kill some time before the half, but an untimely interception from Nowak gave the Raiders new life.  After a 50-yard return, South quarterback Grant Hilton scored from two  yards out just before the end of the half.  A successful two-point conversion put the Raiders back in the game.

The second half was characterized by a systematic rush attack by both teams.  Filling in as the first string running back for Jacobsen, Waterman finished with 96 rushing yards, a majority of them coming in the second half.  South continued to struggle on offense behind the arm of Hilton, but their do-it-all running back Johannes Swannpoel was able to find some holes up the middle, finishing with most of the team’s 148 rushing yards.

Both teams had a touchdown on long drives that melted the clock. South scored with 4:44 left in the game to draw within 8, but was unable to get the ball back. A couple of key plays by Nowak and Waterman advanced the Cougars up the field until the final whistle blew.

Injury report: Senior offensive and defensive stand-out John Hauk suffered a knee injury in the 2nd quarter and was out for the rest of the game.

Next week’s game against Olathe North will be held at CBAC (Olathe Northwest) and is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kick off. (Click here for directions).