Spartans win third in a row with late touchdown
By Dan Karpiel
The Berthoud Spartan football team made their second trip of the season to the eastern plains on Friday night for a contest with the Fort Morgan Mustangs at Legion Field. The Spartans battled all game long and won with a late touchdown. The nail-biting 16-14 victory improves Berthoud to 3-2 on the season as they prepare to begin conference play next week.
Junior quarterback Zach Ruebesam rushed for two touchdowns on the night, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter. With Fort Morgan leading 14-10 in the fourth quarter, Berthoud senior Zackary Smith forced a Mustang fumble. The loose ball was recovered by junior Brad Novell, giving the Spartans possession in Fort Morgan territory with 8:54 remaining. Aware that this was their best, and perhaps final, chance to take the lead, Berthoud marched 31 yards in 2:26 to score the game-winning touchdown. On third down and goal from the three-yard line, Ruebesam sneaked into the end zone behind blockers Brok Diffendaffer and James Pickert.
“We had 23 Naked Slant…like we did on the two-point conversion…but coach told me if I see two-two technique, just audible to quarterback sneak,” Ruebesam said of the game-winning score. Ruebesam recognized this defensive alignment and changed the play, sneaking in for his second touchdown of the night. “They did great” Ruebesam said of his blockers.
Berthoud’s other touchdown came on their opening possession. The 2:27 drive saw the Spartans advance 65 yards and score on a one-yard run by Ruebesam. Aided by tough running by Ruebesam and senior halfback Steven Fiske, the Spartans took an early 8-0 lead. After a Fort Morgan penalty negated the block of Berthoud’s extra point kick, the Spartans opted to go for the two-point conversion. Ruebesam found senior receiver Logan Shuster in the end zone for the conversion. Berthoud got another two points in the third quarter when a Fort Morgan snap sailed out of their own end zone for a safety.
The opening drive touchdown was the only highlight for Berthoud in the first half. The Spartan offense had trouble sustaining drives and the defense struggled to slow down the Mustang ground game. With starting quarterback Aaron Anderson missing the game with an injury, the Mustangs opted to run the football early and often. Using the three running back set, known in football circles as the “wishbone,” the Mustangs scored on both of their first two possessions. Fort Morgan’s second scoring drive saw the Mustangs march 99 yards, wearing out the Berthoud defense and taking a 14-8 lead. The Spartan defense came up big at the end of the second quarter when junior Michael Nienaber snagged an interception.
After the rough start, the Berthoud defense tightened and began to control the Fort Morgan running game. “Troy Diffendaffer and the rest of our defensive staff made some adjustments at halftime … and our kids really executed in the second half,” Berthoud Head Coach Dan McGinn explained after the game. The halftime adjustments worked as Berthoud played shutout defense in the second half, forcing two Mustang turnovers along the way. “We knew Fort Morgan was going to play very well” McGinn added, “I’m just so proud of our guys.”