OAKLAND, NE – Wilber-Clatonia had one of its worst halves of the season, followed by one of its more impressive rallies of the season on Friday night.
The No. 5 Wolverines (9-2) fell behind 20-0 at halftime, scored 21 third quarter points, but ultimately fell short to Oakland-Craig, 35-21, in a Class C2 quarterfinal game.
Wilber-Clatonia had its worst first half of the season Friday. Senior quarterback Michael Pulliam threw three interceptions in the first two quarters after throwing just four through the first 10 games of the year.
The second half started off on a high note for the Wolverines, who received the ball to start the third quarter. Senior running back Coltin Rezabek sprinted into the end zone from 23 yards away to put W-C on the board, 20-7, with 8:26 left in the third.
Oakland-Craig answered on its ensuing possession, going up 28-7 precisely four minutes later after an eight-yard touchdown run from senior running back Robby Mayberry.
Oakland-Craig’s (11-0) ground game wore down the Wolverines’ defense throughout the night. The Knights rushed for 263 yards as a team, led by Mayberry. He finished with 144 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries.
Senior Jefferson McNeil was also impressive for the Knights, carrying the ball 13 times for 80 yards. He scored the game’s first touchdown with 4:24 to go in the first.
Down three scores with time waning late in the third, Wilber-Clatonia came up with its biggest play of the night. On first down, Pulliam found Rezabek wide open for a 46-yard touchdown reception, cutting the deficit to 28-14.
The Wolverines responded with a big stop, forcing a turnover on downs deep in Knights territory.
Taking over at the Knights 22-yard line, Pulliam once again found Rezabek for a touchdown score (22 yards), cutting Oakland Craig’s lead to 28-21 at the start of the fourth quarter.
In his final game as a Wolverine, Pulliam finished 9-of-21 through the air for 154 yards, two touchdowns, three picks and a fumble.
The fumble occurred inside Wilber-Clatonia’s 20-yard line. The Wolverines had the ball, down a touchdown, with just under three minutes to play. After a holding penalty negated a first down, Pulliam was sacked, and then he lost the ball under immense pressure.
Oakland-Craig scored five plays later. Senior quarterback Jared Mulder snuck in from a yard out with 90 seconds left, putting his team up 14.
Mulder finished 6-of-12 through the air for 105 yards and a score. He also had nine carries for 18 yards and the clinching TD.
Rezabek, who started with Pulliam on the Wolverines’ 2016 state championship team, ended his final high school game with 22 rushing yards on six carries. He also had three catches for 90 yards. Rezabek scored all three of Wilber Clatonia’s touchdowns in the third quarter – one rushing and two receiving.
In total, five seniors on coach Lynn Jurgens’ team played their final high school game. Wilber-Clatonia has now won nine or more games in each of the last five seasons.
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.