Durant Football

Clash of state’s top rushers doesn’t disappoint in OT thriller


Cascade defeats Durant 42-41 (OT)

In the end, it was an instant classic. A “you had to be there” kind of a game that took a 21-point fourth quarter from visiting Cascade to prevail over the Durant football team 42-41 in overtime Oct. 9.

It was a tale of two halves in terms of game pace, and the Wildcats were never behind, until the visiting Cougars struck first in overtime to lead 42-35. The Wildcats responded with a score and decided to go for two, resulting in an interception in the end zone, allowing Cascade to escape with the one-point win.

The game had drama. There was also a marquee matchup within the game, as the two top rushers in all of Class 1A were on the field in Cascade’s Jack Menster and Durant’s Nolan DeLong. Both sophomores, the duo dominates the state by the numbers. Menster is No. 1 in rushing (1,391 yards) and rushing touchdowns (18) while DeLong is second in both categories (1,159 yards and 15 touchdowns). Menster has played one more game than DeLong, as the Durant vs. Northeast game earlier in the season was canceled due to COVID-19.

The two didn’t disappoint, turning in eerily similar numbers. DeLong ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. Menster ran for 251 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

“It’s painful, we should have won that game,” said DeLong moments after defeat. “Those last three teams (we’ve played) are some of the best in the state. We put up a fight and could have won all three. It just comes down to simple mistakes.”

DeLong had familiarity with Menster, from a memorable eighth grade game. “It was touchdown after touchdown. He’d score, I’d score. I knew he was going to be good, and he showed it,” DeLong said.

“Nolan ran hard tonight. I’m proud of all my kids,” said Durant coach Joel Diederichs, noting that there were only 19 players dressed, as a dozen were out due to COVID-19 exposure quarantine.

The game started with a long drive from the Cats to begin the game. Quarterback Keagen Head connected with Aydin Flockhart for a 24-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-long play to put Durant up 7-0.

Durant senior defensive lineman Brian Graves intercepted a batted pass on Cascade’s opening possession. He would later recover a fumble in the second half. Menster struck in the second quarter with his first rushing touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

After a Cascade interception was negated by a penalty on the next drive, Durant capitalized with a TD pass from Head to Cameron Ruggiero for 23 yards and a score. The Cats led 14-7. Flockhart secured another Durant interception deep in Wildcat territory to stop a Cougar drive before the break. Durant led 14-7 at the half.

The game broke wide open in the second half. Cascade scored on its opening drive to tie the game 14-14. Durant executed a fake punt on a pass from Head to Carter Wichelt on the next drive, and later scored on a 50-yard touchdown run from DeLong to regain the lead 21-14.

The Cougars responded in just three plays — all runs from Menster — for a touchdown. A failed PAT left Durant in the lead 21-20.

Durant ended the third with another long touchdown run from DeLong, who seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. He ran for 31 yards for a score and the Cats took a 28-20 lead to the fourth quarter.

Graves recovered the fumble early in the period and Durant took advantage, on another touchdown run from DeLong to push the lead to 35-20 with just 5:51 to go in the game.

Menster responded with two long runs, the touchdown run being 26 yards, to score 24 seconds later. A two-point conversion cut the lead to 35-28.

A defensive stand from the Cougars gave them the ball back with just over two minutes to go. Quarterback Justin Roling hit Luke Ruggeberg for a 39-yard pass play down the right side on a throw between two Durant defenders. The score tied the game 35-35 with 1:07 to go.

Durant drove the field and left kicker Logan Wolf a 38-yard field goal try into a stiff wind with just three seconds remaining. The kick had the distance but was just left, sending the game to overtime, where each team gets chances to score from the 10-yard line.

“We managed the clock well and had a chance to win it. It was close,” said Diederichs of the kick. “That was a classic game.”

Cascade was first, and Menster ran for a touchdown. The Cougars led 42-35, scoring 28 points in the final 5:51 of regulation plus overtime.

DeLong responded, with a touchdown run of his own. Down 42-41, Durant went for two, a pass from Head that was intercepted in the end zone by Menster to end the game with a one-point Cascade win.

When asked about the final two-point play, DeLong said, “I have faith in my coaches, whatever the play call.”

“It was a fun game, like the Big 12,” said Diederichs. “It was back and forth. They have a good team, we have a good team. They have a good running back, we have a good running back. They made one more play in the end … We were getting beat up pretty good. We had a hard time stopping the run. I believe in having the ball in Keagen’s hands. The pass was just feathered a bit and came up short.”

The Cougars went to 5-2 on the season while Durant dropped to 3-3. The Wildcats lost each of their last three games against the top three teams in the District, all by one score or less.

Head was 10-19 for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 97 yards. Flockhart had 49 yards receiving while DeLong had 48.

Roling was 8-18 for 160 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for Cascade. Ruggeberg caught three balls for 111 yards and two scores.

The Wildcats will host Louisa-Muscatine in an opening round playoff game Oct. 16. Durant beat L-M on the road in week two 49-0. “Our goal is to win a playoff game. Durant has never won a playoff game,” said Diederichs.