Pratt defeated Nickerson 28-14 Friday night at Zerger Field.
One of this week's most anticipated high school gridiron match-ups occurred Friday night at Pratt's Zerger Field. Both 2-0, Nickerson and Pratt had posted nearly identical scores earlier in the season against a common opponent-Haven.
The Central Kansas League foes are also near mirror images of one another offensively. Both run the flex-bone scheme and feature a bruising fullback who had run roughshod over previous opponents. For the Panthers, that is Peyton Kuhns; for the Greenbacks, Travis Theis.
The stage seemed set for a donnybrook of epic proportions between a pair of evenly matched teams. In the end, the game wasn't quite as dramatic as the build-up, but it was still a good football game- the Greenbacks of Pratt defeating the Nickerson Panthers 28-14.
Pratt received the opening kickoff, then proceeded to march the ball methodically down the field, capped off by a 9 yard Travis Theis TD run.
Nickerson looked like they might answer right back, but Pratt's Kaden Evert picked off a Nickerson pass to end the drive in Pratt territory.
On the first play of the second period, Theis burst through the line for a 56 yard score to give Pratt a 14-0 lead. Theis would score again from 27 yards out with 1:24 left until intermission.
In the first half, the Panthers offense was its own worst enemy, penalties and miscues cutting short what looked like effective drives. The Greenbacks took a 21-0 lead to halftime.
In Nickerson's opening possession of the second half, another drive was thwarted when Theis picked off a Nickerson pass and returned it to the Panther 20. A few plays later, Theis rumbled in from 4 yards to put the Greenbacks up 28-0.
But Nickerson did not fold their tent. They scored twice in Q3: a 35-yard pass from Josh Salazar to Trystan Isley; and a Salazar 3- yard run. That brought the score to 28-14 Pratt entering the final stanza.
Pratt was the team that began to make mistakes later in the game, such as allowing a successful Nickerson onside kick and getting flagged several times. As a result, much of the fourth quarter was played on the Pratt side of the field, but Nickerson was twice stopped on downs by the stiffening Greenback defense on their own 5 yard line. The game ended with Pratt on top 28-14.
"It was a tough game. Nickerson is a good team," PHS head coach Jamie Cruce said after the contest. "We'll take the win, but the mistakes were frustrating. We have to get better."
Panther head coach Mike Vernon said, "I was proud of our guys, especially the way we came back after being down early. We responded and made some big plays in the second half. It was a big game for both teams, and Pratt is just a little bit more seasoned than we are in those kinds of games, and it showed in the mistakes we made in the early going."
Next week is homecoming for Pratt as they host the Lyons Lions.
Pratt 7 13 8 0 28
Nick 0 0 14 0 14