Coming into the Nov. 1 state playoff game, the Gothenburg High School Swedes boasted an 8-1 record and a defense that seemed to stop everything in its way.
Unfortunately, the Swede freight train was derailed by an Ord team that had a bone to pick.
The Chanticleers came to Gothenburg to avenge its Oct. 24 loss that saw the Swedes win on an overtime field goal.
“They came in with a lot of intensity,” coach Craig Haake said of Gothenburg’s 26-20 loss. “They came out and hit us hard right away.”
Haake said the loss was tough to stomach with the hopes of a long playoff run being dashed so early in the postseason.
“This one stings,” he said. “It’s been hard to keep a stiff upper lip. That’s what happens when you care.”
Ord’s opening kick sailed in the end zone, and the Swedes started the game on their 20-yard line.
A fumble on a veer was recovered by Ord, giving the Chants excellent field position.
The Chants fumbled on their first snap but recovered, and Zach Smith found Quinton Ries in the end zone for a quick touchdown.
The PAT was good, and the Chants were on the board 7-0 with 11:28 in the first quarter.
Gothenburg and Ord exchanged punts and defensive stands until 5:43 left in the first quarter when Maguire Bartlett broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown run. Ackerman’s PAT was good, and the Swedes tied the game with 5:29 in the first quarter.
The Chants were quick to answer on the following series when on third-and-9 Smith found Kelen Meyer on a 69-yard pass to give the Chants 6. The PAT was no good, but Ord held the lead 13-7 with 3:45 left in the opening quarter.
Ord opened the second quarter with the ball on the Swedes’ 25-yard line. Gothenburg forced them into a fourth down, and the 42-yard field goal attempt clanked off the cross-bar and was signaled good, giving the Chants a 16-7 lead.
The Swedes had a hard time getting the offense going and were forced to punt. Ackerman sent the ball to the Ord 16. On second and 8, Smith connected with Reis for a 55-yard pass completion, setting the Chants up for first-and-goal. Smith punched in the touchdown, the PAT was good, and Ord held a 23-7 lead with 5:42 to play in the first half.
The Swedes tried to get something going and picked up three first downs on runs by Geiken and Conner Baker before they punted with less than two minutes left in the first half.
Ord took a knee to wind out the half, and the teams went to the locker room with Ord holding a 16-point advantage.
Ackerman kicked off for the Swedes to open the second half, giving Ord a start at their 20-yard line. Gothenburg’s defense held firm and forced the Chants to punt.
Bryce Ryker received the kick at the Swedes’ 20-yard line and took it to the Gothenburg 28. Bartlett handed the football to Baker on first and 10, and he rumbled to the Ord 38-yard line. A horse-collar tackle led to a personal foul on Ord that gave the Swedes another 15 yards at the end of the run to set them on the Ord 21. Geiken took a pitch from Bartlett on the option and took it to the 6-yard line. Baker charged through the Ord line into the end zone, and Ackerman’s PAT made the score 23-14 with 8:49 left in the third quarter.
The defense from both teams stood strong in the remainder of the third quarter, not giving either offense many options or much ground. The game went into the fourth quarter with the Swedes on the Ord 47.
Bartlett connected with Baker on a 31-yard pass to put the Swedes at the Ord 15-yard line. Baker took the handoff on a cross-buck play and punched it into the end zone. Ackerman’s kick was no good, leaving the score 23-20 in favor of the Chants with 9:36 left in regulation.
Smith marched the Ord offense down the field to the Gothenburg 12 when the Swede defense stiffened.
The Chants had five chances with the ball inches from pay dirt, and the Swede defense remained steady under pressure, forcing the kicking team on the field to attempt a field goal.
“They drove at us for 65 yards, and they got to the goal line, and we held them there,” Haake said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys, standing strong like they did.”
Meyer hit the 16-yard field goal to give the Chants a 26-20 lead with 2:54 left to play.
The kick was sent to the end zone, and the Swedes got a start at their own 20.
Bartlett had two 5-yard carries to get a first down with 1:54 remaining. Isaiah Young took the ball for a gain of 3 yards. A second-down pass to Baker fell incomplete, bringing up third and 7. Baker took the ball again for a gain of one, and the Swedes had to go for it on fourth and 6 with 1:27 to play in the game.
Bartlett rolled out but was met with a swarming Ord defense and was hit at the line of scrimmage, ending the offensive threat for the Swedes.
Ord came onto the field and lined up in victory formation to wind down the clock, and the Swede season ended.
“Our team fought hard throughout the game,” Haake said. “I commend them for hanging in and continuing to fight.”
The Swedes end their season 8-2 with 17 seniors who have seen the playoffs in each of their four years at GHS.
“The senior leadership on this team is incredible,” Haake said. “I’ve never had such a senior-oriented team. They just handled business.”
While the season ended much sooner than any of the Swedes expected, Haake said his message to the team at the end of the game was one of pride.
“I told them I was proud of them. They fought hard,” he said.