COZAD — Caden Rezac’s season debut with the Ogallala football team didn’t lack drama.
The sophomore, who missed the first five weeks of the season with a knee injury, threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to Cameron Bush — including the game-winner with just under four minutes left in regulation — as Ogallala edged Cozad 16-13 on Friday at Haymaker Stadium.
“It’s huge,” Rezac said as the Indians improved to 4-2. “It’s our first (victory) on the road (this season) and I’m really happy to come back. It was an awesome job by our whole team. Our (offensive) line did a lot and the defense played amazing. It was just a great game.”
The two teams combined for 22 points over the final 9 minutes, 28 seconds.
Cozad (5-1), entered the week No. 6 in Class C1 in the Omaha World-Herald state prep football poll, suffered its first loss of the season.
The go-ahead score came on a fourth-and-9 play from the Ogallala 45. Rezac hit Bush with a pass along the sidelines in front of the Indians bench — on a route called a “mesh wheel” — and he turned and ran the roughly last 40 yards into the end zone.
“They were really overplaying our tight end and it just opened up a lot of things for Cameron,” Ogallala coach Brent Bauer said. “Every time we ran it in the second half, he was popping open in the middle and we were just barely missing him (before).”
The Haymakers’ Dreu White took the ensuing kickoff from the Cozad 17 to midfield. White also caught a 15-yard pass at the Ogallala 24 on a third-and-10 play from a scrambling Nolan Wetovick. But the Haymakers were called for holding on the play and the spot penalty resulted in a third-and-35.
Cozad turned the ball over as Nathan Engel was stopped short on a reception on a fourth-and-25 near midfield and Ogallala then ran out the clock to spoil the Haymakers’ homecoming.
The two teams battled through a defensive slugfest through more than three quarters with the only score being an 82-yard touchdown run by Cozad’s Tag Sassali around right end with just over three minutes left in the half.
Ogallala finally broke through on its opening drive of the fourth quarter. Rezac had a 24-yard run to inside the Cozad 30 and then connected with Bush for a 17-yard gain.
On a first-and-goal from the Cozad 15, Rezac scrambled and motioned for Bush to head to the far edge of the end zone where they connected on a touchdown pass. Ogallala’s Harry Caskey then ran in the conversion to give the Indians an 8-7 lead.
“I saw (Rezac) look at me and point to the sideline,” Bush said. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to run to the sideline and go get this score.’ It’s nice having (Rezac) back. I appreciate him.”
The lead lasted for about three minutes. With Cozad facing a second-and-9 near midfield, White took a screen pass from Wetovick 52 yards down the sideline to the Ogallala 2.
Jacob Weatherly scored on the next play to give Cozad a 13-8 lead as the conversion pass attempt failed.
But Ogallala needed just seven plays to retake the lead, and Caskey hit Aydan Halligan on the conversion to give the Indians a three-point cushion.
Rezac was injured in the Ogallala’s scrimmage and was initially diagnosed with a fractured knee and was expected to be on crutches for three months. He got a second opinion, found there was no fracture and returned to practice this week.
Bauer inserted Rezac in at quarterback to start the second half and moved Caskey — who started the game at the position — out to receiver.
“As a team we did a great job and I’m just so proud of them,” Bauer said. “