The Beavers got their wish.
In a game that saw both teams score and make defensive stops, the Beavers defeated the Tigers by the score of 36-34 to advance to the Class 1A Division II State Championship for the second time in four years.
“The highlight of the game was the way it ended,” said Falls City head coach Steve Marbach. “Tenaha was incredible. They’re well coached and classy kids. I feel we were fortunate to make more plays than they did.”
The Beavers drew first blood in the contest as, with 9:00 on the clock in the first quarter, Justin Twine scored on a 20-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed, however, leaving Falls City with an early 6-0 lead. The Tigers roared right back with 7:26 to go in the first quarter as Chavis Gregory scored on a 41-yard run, with Javier Uribe kicking the extra point to give Tenaha the 7-6 lead after a quarter of play. The Beavers held the Tigers scoreless in the second quarter and scored two touchdowns of their own in the process. The first of these came at the 9:53 mark as Twine ran past Tenaha’s defense and scored on a 76-yard run for his second rushing touchdown of the game. Dean Gaskamp ran in the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Beavers a 14-7 edge. The last score of the first half came as time expired as Twine punched it in on a 1-yard run for his third rushing touchdown of the game. Conner Jendrusch kicked the extra point to give Falls City the halftime lead at 21-7.
The Tigers scored 21 unanswered points in the entirety of the third quarter. The first score came at the 2:54 mark as Gregory scored on a 1-yard run and Uribe kicked the extra point to cut Falls City’s lead to 21-14. Just six seconds later, on the ensuing kickoff, the kick was muffed and recovered in the end zone by Tenaha’s Brady Tovar for a touchdown. Uribe’s PAT tied the game at 21-21. The Tigers retook the lead as time expired in the third quarter as Gregory scored on an 18-yard run for his third rushing touchdown of the game. Uribe kicked the extra point to give Tenaha the 28-21 to start the fourth quarter.
The Beavers refused to give in, scoring at the 10:56 mark to tie the game up at 28-28 thanks to a 46-yard run by Twine and a PAT by Jendrusch. The Beavers took the lead for good with 2:48 to go as Gaskamp capped off a Falls City drive with a 21-yard run. Twine passed to David Brodsky for the two-point conversion to give the Beavers the 36-28 lead. The Tigers would score the final touchdown of the game just 36 seconds later as J.R. Hill connected with D’Andre Thomas for a 30-yard score. After calling two straight timeouts, the Tigers elected to go for two and the tie, but the pass was incomplete and the Beavers held on as time expired.
“Their mental toughness was fantastic,” said Marbach. “There was every reason to fold up shop after the third quarter.”
Statistically, the Beavers gained 392 yards of total offense, with 327 yards rushing over 41 carries and 65 yards passing over two completions. By comparison, the Tigers gained 305 yards of total offense, with 236 yard rushing over 37 carries and 69 yards passing over four completions. In terms of penalties, the Beavers committed eight penalties for 50 total yards and the Tigers were flagged 10 times for 65 total yards.
“Last year, we talked to the team and this was what we wanted,” said Marbach. “We felt like (Tenaha was) the best team in the state going in and we knew we had to beat them.
This week, the Beavers will face the Wellington Skyrockets in the final football game of the season, with this one being for the ultimate prize. The game will take place at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Falls City will be the designated Home team for the 1A Division II State Championship Game.
“It’s going to be a blast,” said Marbach. “It’s an awe-inspiring place. All of that’s going to be great for the kids, but all that will go away once kickoff begins.”
Kickoff in Arlington is set for Thursday, Dec. 19 at 1:00 p.m.