It wasn’t the kind of performance the Concordia Panthers had become accustomed to of the past four weeks, but it was a win.
Concordia gave up 238 yards and four touchdowns passing, turned the ball over five times, and had three touchdown runs called back because of penalties, but an interception return and a kickoff return for touchdowns by Alan Garcia, a breakout game by senior runningback Trevor Nordell and a key defensive stop in the final three minutes allowed the Panthers to escape with a 34-24 Class 4A District 16 win over Goodland Friday night at Harold M. Clark Stadium.
Avoiding the upset bid by Goodland, the Panthers won their fifth straight game to improve to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in district play.
Concordia travels to Clay Center on Thursday night in a game that will decide the District 16 champion.
Clay Center, also 6-2 overall, knocked off Colby on Friday night, and is also 2-0 in district play.
Concordia was outgained offensively, 358-320, for the first time since a loss to Wamego in the third week of the season.
The Panthers had three interceptions and two fumbles, but still found a way to stay on track for a third consecutive district title.
“We made some mistakes, but were able to overcome them and get out of there with a win,” Concordia coach Tim Lambert said, “We are 2-0 going to Clay Center. It should be a good football game.”
Goodland, 2-6, had a chance to score first following an interception of a Nathan Gieber pass.
The Cowboys got to the Concordia 11-yard line, but had a field goal attempt blocked.
Concordia moved from its own 11-yard line to the Goodland six.
Nordell, who had 188 yards on 15 carries in the game, broke a 59-yard run in the second play of the drive.
“He has been battling some injuries all season long. When he is healthy he is pretty good. We are starting to see a little bit of that,” Lambert said.
The Panthers were unable to convert on a fourth down and two, and Goodland got the ball back.
Two plays later, Garcia intercepted a Trey Teeter pass and returned it seven yards for a touchdown with 16 seconds to play in the first quarter.
The two-point conversion attempt failed, and Concordia led 6-0.
Concordia would force a Goodland punt, and got the ball on its own 30-yard line.
The Panthers went 70 yards in 14 plays, and Joshua Pounds scored on a 4-yard run with 3:44 remaining in the first half.
Nordell ran in the conversion to put Concordia up 14-0.
Goodland responded with a 60-yard touchdown drive.
Teeter, who completed 16 of 32 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns, threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Dax Ruhs with just 13 seconds to play in the half.
Goodland failed on the conversion attempt.
Garcia then returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.
Concordia couldn’t cash in on the conversion, but led 20-6 at halftime.
Goodland was unable to take advantage of a fumble on Concordia’s first possession of the second half, but did so on a second opportunity.
Nordell fumbled, and the Cowboys recovered on the Panther 36-yard line.
Teeter would hook up with Ruhs on a 7-yard touchdown pass that made it a 20-12 game.
The Cowboys then recovered an onsides kick, and got the ball at the Concordia 33.
Teeter needed just one play to toss a touchdown pass to Taylen Smith, and Goodland trailed just 20-18.
“The stretch in the game that was the most glaring was our first drive in the second half. We fumble, and then on the second drive we fumble. On a play where we were in pretty good position, and may have tipped the ball a little bit, the kid makes a good play and scores, and all of sudden we are in a dog fight,” Lambert said.
The two teams exchanged punts, and Concordia ended up with the ball at the Goodland 36-yard line.
Pounds broke a 31-yard run, and Nick Thomas scored on a 16-yard run following a penalty with seven seconds left in the third quarter.
Trailing 28-18, the Cowboys put together a 10-play, 74-yard scoring drive.
Teeter again threw to Ruhs for a touchdown to close the gap to 28-24.
“The quarterback played as well as we had seen him. He made some plays that were really good. As a freshman he showed signs of his potential. I think he is going to be a good one,” Lambert said.
Goodland forced a Concordia punt, but was unable to pick up a first down.
Nordell broke a 55-yard touchdown run on first down, but a holding penalty wiped it out.
Two plays later, Drake Hake went 74 yards for a touchdown, but Concordia was again called for holding.
Facing a second down and 38, Gieber had a pass intercepted by Ruhs, and Goodland had the ball at the Panther 38.
The Cowboys picked up one first down, but Gieber knocked down a Teeter pass intended for Ruhs on a fourth and 19.
“If we would have given up some points there, it would have really tested our resolve. We bucked up and made some plays,” Lambert said.
Concordia got the ball on its own 27-yard line.
Nordell ripped off a 65-yard run on first down.
Thomas scored on a 3-yard run two plays later to up the lead to 34-24 with just 1:18 to play in the game.
Goodland turned the ball over on downs, and the Panthers escaped with the win.
Concordia finished with 297 yards rushing on 40 carries.
Pounds had 48 yards on six carries, and Thomas carried seven times for 40 yards.
Ruhs had 63 yards rushing and five catches for 89 yards and three touchdowns for Goodland.