Jaylan Ruffin saw an opening on the far right side by the Fremont sideline in the fourth quarter and danced past a defender as he ran alongside it. Two more defenders, one of which was a defensive back, started closing in and looked as if they would knock the North Platte running back out of bounds.
They didn’t. Ruffin stutter-stepped, which forced a defender to try to tackle him up high. Ruffin lowered, pushed the defender off and waltzed into the end zone on a 33-yard run.
The score put North Platte ahead by 10 points, and ultimately was the insurance the Bulldogs (2-0) needed to defeat Fremont on Friday 35-31.
“They kind of looked like they were overcommitting to my outside,” Ruffins said. “So I stutter stepped and luckily they had a high tackle on me and I put a hand down and kept my footing. Got into the end zone.”
Ruffin and senior running back Cody Wright anchored a North Platte offense that put up 403 rushing yards. Ruffin finished with 72 yards while Wright had 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Tate Janas had 41 yards on the ground and a touchdown, and Vince Genatone rushed for 89 yards with a 69-yard touchdown run.
“I was really pleased with the physicality,” North Platte coach Todd Rice said. “Our execution was really good. Just a number of different guys contributed tonight and I think you really see what the offense can do in all aspects of it.”
Neither team really pulled away at any point of the game. Any points were typically answered by the other team, especially in the first half.
Fremont opened the game with a field goal on its first drive after converting on a fourth down. North Platte responded with a Ruffin kickoff return to the Tigers’ 40-yard line. After slowly moving the ball closer to the end zone, the Bulldogs put seven on the board on a pitch play to Janas, who ran 10 yards for the touchdown.
Fremont immediately got that score back when Dawson Glause returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter. North Platte continued to move the ball, which led to a four-yard touchdown run from Wright with three seconds remaining in the quarter to put the score at 13-10 for North Platte.
The trading scores continued into the second quarter, as Fremont threw a touchdown pass to Drew Sellon. Not even a minute later, the Bulldogs regained the lead after Genatone broke some tackles and scored on a 69-yard touchdown.
The game started swinging in North Platte’s favor after it forced the Tigers to punt the ball for the first time all game with 6:30 left in the second quarter. That allowed the Bulldogs to waste three and a half minutes and get Wright’s second touchdown of the night on a three-yard carry.
The second half featured a little different of the game. There were times neither team could really move the ball, and there were times both teams ran wild.
North Platte had to punt on the opening drive of the half, and Fremont followed suit. As the third quarter was coming to an end, the Tigers had the ball within the three-yard line, and scored after being stopped twice. A two-point conversion made it a 28-25 game for North Platte.
Then came Ruffin’s 33-yard run to make it a 35-25 game. Fremont scored one last time on a near-perfect throw to Glause right over the hands of the North Platte defender, but it failed to make the extra point, setting the score at 35-31.
The Tigers could have gotten the ball back if it kept North Platte from picking up a first down, but they failed to do so.
“I thought it was going to be a close game, but I thought both defenses were really going to be challenged,” Rice. “I really felt confidence in the physicality of our offense.”
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