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By Mary Schwanke
Raider flags were flying high before the State Semifinal football game Friday, November 26. North Shelby was set to face off against the Worth County/ Northeast Nodaway Tigers at 2 p.m. The Tigers were ranked #1 in the State and had gone undefeated, much like North Shelby. It ended up being the last game of the season, and the final game of 12 seniors’ careers. The Tigers claimed a 36-34 victory, but the Raiders didn’t go down without a fight.
NS began the Semifinal battle on defense. At 4th and 7, Worth County punted the ball to the Raider’s 39-yard line.
Cale Stoneburner and Justin Lunsford both gained yards for the Raiders. At 1st and goal with four yards to go, Lunsford pushed through defenders for a Raider touchdown. His own conversion was good, and the Raiders led 8-0 at 7:40 in the first quarter.
Back on defense, Worth County was forced to punt again. The Raiders’ next series played out similarly, and Brendyn McDaniel was set to punt to the opposite 22-yard line. The Tiger’s next pass resulted in a gain of 34 yards. Ultimately, Worth County was successful in reaching the end zone with a minute left in the first quarter. The score was now tied 8-8.
The Raiders’ next possession lasted around six minutes of game time. It was laced with penalties and stretched into the second quarter. It started with a facemask call on the Tigers, which granted the Raiders a 1st down. The Raiders crept forward, and at 3rd and 1, a trick play allowed Stoneburner to shoot through for a first down, just as the quarter ended. At the start of the second quarter, the Raiders immediately suffered from a false start. However, NS came back. At 3rd and 13, Lunsford received a pass and took the ball 21 yards for a 1st down. From the 17-yard line, the Raiders were pushed backwards by a holding call. Many more downs and penalties later, Stoneburner tricked the defense, kept the ball, and took it 15 yards for a touchdown. The conversion was no good. The score read 14-8.
The Tigers’ next possession was a short one. This was a major point in the game, in which Worth County gained enough momentum to do serious damage. On the 1st down, Alex Rinehart rushed 49 yards for a touchdown.
The conversion was successful, and the Tigers led 16-14.
Right off the bat of their next possession, Gladstone ran for another touchdown, the second one in a two-minute timeframe. The score read 24-14 with roughly six minutes left in the first half.
At 4th and 9 for the Raiders, a pass to Landon Bender was intercepted. The Raiders fought hard against Worth County’s offense. At 1st and goal, a mere two yards from the end zone, a fumble pushed the Tigers back 11 yards. However, Jackson Runde received a touchdown pass. The conversion was prevented by a host of Raiders.
Carson Orr ran the ball for a 1st down. A Tiger intercepted a pass and took a knee, just as the buzzer sounded. The first half came to an end with a score of 14-30, but as the Raiders came out of the locker room, they were determined to bounce back.
North Shelby’s first possession resulted in a punt, but the noise level from the crowd dramatically increased when they were back on defense. At one point, Gladstone broke free and ran to the end zone, but a block in the back call on them resulted in a loss of several yards. The crowd went nuts. At 3rd and long, 25 yards from the sticks, Stoneburner intercepted a pass. This was a turning point for North Shelby: both the team and the fans.
“I wanna thank all the people who came out to the game for being loud and supporting our kids. That’s one of the reasons we were able to come back. There was so much energy from the community,” said head coach David Stuckey. Noise made a difference in this game.
With two minutes left in the third quarter, Lunsford took off with the ball, running 24 yards for a Raider touchdown. The conversion was stopped, but the Raiders were only 10 points behind the Worth County.
On the 12-yard line, Noah Greenwell recovered a fumble. Right away, Orr caught a pass and sprinted 65 yards for a touchdown. The score was only 30-28 at 10:29 in the fourth quarter, with North Shelby on Worth County’s haunches.
However, the Tigers responded with a touchdown of their own. NS fans began cheering harder than ever and the Raiders prevented the conversion. The score became 28-36.
On the Raiders’ 1st down, Stoneburner handed the ball off to Orr, who passed it to Lunsford. Touchdown North Shelby. The crucial last two points were stopped short of the goal line however, and the final score sat at 36-34.
The game wasn’t over yet, and a relentless pack of North Shelby seniors fought tooth and nail. The Raiders recovered a fumble and took over at their own 17-yard line, but turned over on downs in the end. The Tigers ran the remaining two minutes off the clock, and North Shelby met with their opponents in the center of the field to pray, a tradition the team has observed for many years.
Stoneburner finished the season leading his team in touchdowns, with a total of 23. Lunsford was not far behind with 22.
Coach Stuckey’s parting words for his seniors are as follows: “Love you guys. That’s all I can say.
“From day one, they’ve bought in. They’ve worked their tails off, they’ve led, they’ve bled, and they love this community and their team. You just don’t get that anywhere else. That’s why I love them.”
“My proudest moments of the season aren’t just what happened in the games. It’s all the jokes in the locker room. It’s all the smiles and the sweat that we put into the off time that makes the success happen on the field. These guys earned each and every moment of the way. The success didn’t just happen. It’s because they worked hard to earn it. I’m just so proud of the way they made it happen.”
Notes from the Seniors:
Cale Stoneburner, #2- “I’d like to thank the community for the endless support and all the meals they’ve provided for us. Also, for taking the time out of their day to drive, sometimes three hours, just to watch us play and cheer us on. We all, as a team, appreciate it.”
Dominic Manning, #60- “This team means everything to me to every boy that played. The North Shelby football team is not built on winning games but the memories it has created and the brotherhood it built throughout the years. Even after our football season, we have each other’s backs throughout life.”
Landon Bender, #46- “I just want to thank my teammates for always being there through thick and thin, the community for supporting us and believing in us for the last four years, and I know all of us on the team would like to thank our families for supporting us and pushing us to be the best we can be.”
Justin Lunford, #21- “It’s sad to say it’s over, but these last four years have been the best years of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Some people think we were just a team, but in reality, we are a family. I’m gonna miss playing with all of you.”
Brenden Miles, #69- “I think being able to have that connection with everyone on the team is really special and teaches you so much. I wouldn’t trade the time I spent on that field for anything. Some of my best memories were made on game days and during practices.”
Andrew Wiley, #87- “Thank you everyone for the support that you have given me and my senior brothers for the past four years. We all appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts and we wouldn’t trade these four years for anything. #87 signing out.”
Carson Orr, #12- “I would just like to thank the school and community for providing us food and support through the season. It was one heck of a ride and I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.”
Luke Schwanke, #44- “I’d like to thank all of the coaches, teachers, and community for the support and dedication along the way.”
Dylan McEwen, #66- “It has been a great season with this team and I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything.”
Elise Miles, Manager- “Dear North Shelby football players, for the past three years I have been pouring my heart into you all as a water girl/ manager. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to share devotions with you and be there to support you. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I love you all tremendously and I am so beyond proud of seeing how you all have grown every single day. I’m gonna miss sitting at practice and being right there beside you on the field.”
Jaylea Barrick, Cheer Captain- “This year’s football season was an exciting one to say the least. We started out playing our first 11-man game in a long time and dominated at that. Throughout the rest of the season we had many more victories right up until the very end. The season may not have ended how we wanted it to, but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I love the game of football and I know all the boys do too. It’s been a very memorable season- one I know I’ll never forget thanks to the amazing football team.”