Senior Caleb Reno set a new school, single-game record with 29 tackles, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Hardin Central Bulldogs chewed up the Northwest Mustangs 58-14 in the Eight-Man District 1 Semifinals in nippy conditions Friday night at Hughesville.
Reno’s 29 tackles, six of which were behind the line of scrimmage, gave him a total of 114 tackles on the season.
However, Reno didn’t get much help on the offensive side of the ball. Northwest had just 130 yards total offense in the first half, and were not even close to that in the second half after junior quarterback Cortlen Austin suffered a concussion late in the first half and did not return.
Austin had 67 yards rushing in the first half, leaving him with 975 yards on the ground for the season. He was an uncharacteristic 2-of-16 through the air in the first half for 63 yards, giving him 1,736 yards in the air for the season.
Northwest played a little Kansas City Chiefs’ football Friday night, turning the ball over six times and the Bulldogs scored on all six miscues. Northwest failed to score in the second half and trailed 28-14 at halftime.
On the Mustangs’ second possession, Austin rolled out and tucked the ball in to the Mustangs’ 20. On the next play Austin’s pass was intercepted and returned to the Mustangs’ 31. From there, Bulldog quarterback Rhyler Estenbaum score the first of his four TDs on the night on a 31-yrd run with 23 seconds left in the first quarter The two-point conversion failed, giving Hardin Central a 6-0 lead after one quarter.
Two consecutive running plays by Austin and the Mustangs had a first and goal at the Bulldog eight. Quincy Wicker swept to the right side and scored from eight yards out with 11:34 left in the half. The two-point conversion failed but the game was tied at 6-6.
Hardin Central came right back as Estenbaum scored his second TD of the game on a four-yard run as the Bulldogs took the lead 12-6.
Tight end Matthew Hymiller scored on an 11-yard sweep to the right side and this time the Bulldogs tacked on the two-point conversion to lead 20-6.
Northwest closed the gap again on a 51-yard TD pass from Austin to All State wide receiver Andrew Underwood. For Underwood, it was his 20th TD reception of the year. The Mustangs converted the two-point conversion on a diving play by Austin to make it 20-14.
That was it for the Mustangs, as turnovers, penalties and sacks kept them from getting any offensive consistency.
Estenbaum scored his third TD just before the half as Hardin Central took a 28-14 lead at the half.
Estenbaum scored his fourth TD of the night on a 40-yard run with 10:46 left in the third quarter to make t 36-14. Hank Bowers scored on a two-yard run and the two-point conversion made it 44-14 after three quarters.
The tiring Mustang defense gave up two more scores in the fourth quarter.
Cody Wicker took over at quarterback for Northwest, replacing the injured Austin in the second half. Ryan Rafferty finished up at quarterback.
Hardin Central advanced to take on Southwest Livingston County in the district championship game Friday at Ludlow. Northwest, who had beaten Hardin Central 56-24 last month at Hardin, closed out their season 6-3. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.