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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Yellowstone Newspapers photo by Nate Howard

Red Devils use second half surge to dominate Park County

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

After the two teams went into halftime deadlocked in a scoreless tie, the Dawson County Red Devils came alive in the second half to dominate the Park County Rangers in Livingston and post a 20-0 victory to open their 2017 campaign.

The Red Devils broke the scoreless tie after taking the ball to start the second half and never looked back. 

After starting with decent field position at their own 37 and picking up a first down on a completion from senior quarterback Cade Dockter to senior wideout Robby Keiser out near midfield, it looked like the Devils’ drive may stall following a busted run play and a holding penalty that left them staring at a third down and 25 to go. But on that long third down, Keiser got past the defense and Dockter hit him downfield throwing into the wind for a huge pass play that took the ball all the way down to the Rangers’ 18. Three plays later, workhorse senior running back Karsen Kelly, who was a bulldozing force all night, plunged it in from one yard out. The extra point conversion was no good, giving the Devils a 6-0 lead at 9:27 in the third quarter.

DCHS struck again before the third quarter was done. Coming off a fumble recovered by the Red Devils defense back in the Rangers’ own territory, Dockter found Keiser for another good pass play to set his team up with a first and 10 from the Park County 15 and then kept it himself on the next play to rumble home to paydirt. Devils coach Ryan Buckley chose to go for the 2-point conversion and it paid off as sophomore running back Nelson Crisafulli plunged across the goal line for the conversion to give DCHS a 14-0 lead with 1:59 left in the third quarter.

Any lingering doubts about the game’s outcome were put to rest midway through the fourth quarter. Coming off of another turnover, this time an interception by Devils defensive back Tyler Clapp of a pass from Rangers junior quarterback John Waddell at the Rangers’ own 42 yard line, Crisafulli barreled into the endzone from 4 yards out to cap the short drive with 6:29 to go in the game. The kick try fell short, but the Red Devils were firmly in control at that point.

Defensively, DCHS dominated Park County for most of the game, especially in the second half. Waddell and the Rangers’ other quarterback, senior Rydell Floyd, did hook up for several nice downfield completions, including a nifty pitch-and-pass trick play between the two immediately after the Devils’ second score, but the Rangers could never hold any momentum. 

Besides a tough Devils defense, the Rangers also couldn’t get out of their own way at times, and were plagued by a wide variety of costly offensive penalties. One in particular cost the Rangers dearly. Midway through the third quarter, the Rangers had driven deep into Red Devils territory to set up a first and goal from the DCHS 6 yard line. The Rangers were called for offensive pass interference on the first down play, backing them up 15 yards to the 21. They never recovered, ultimately turning the ball over on downs after four straight incompletions. 

The other two times the Rangers seriously threatened to score, once in the first half and once more in the fourth quarter, they also undid themselves, fumbling the ball in one case and losing big yardage on a backwards pass in the other.

The Red Devils won the turnover battle 5-4, with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, and converted two of those turnovers into touchdowns. Clapp, Dockter and Kade Deckert snagged the interceptions for the Red Devils defense. Defensive end Wade Emmert also recorded a quarterback sack. The Rangers picked Dockter off twice and also recovered two fumbles. Both teams turned the ball over on downs several times. As for penalties, the Red Devils played a remarkably clean game overall, especially when compared to the Rangers, who were plagued by yellow flags on both sides of the ball.

The first half of the game was mostly a slugfest, with both teams making mistakes that cost them chances to score. Coming off a short punt that set them up nicely in Rangers territory, the Red Devils drove down to the Park County 1 yard line on their opening possession of the game and looked like they were going to jump out to a quick lead, but Dockter fumbled at the goaline on a quarterback keeper attempt on first down and goal and the Rangers recovered it.

The Ranger-Review was unable to reach Coach Buckley by phone following the game and so was unable to obtain commentary from him about the game or player statistics.

The Red Devils will bring their 1-0 record home next Friday, Sept. 1. They will take on the Hardin Bulldogs — who beat Havre 15-7 on Friday night — on Perham Field at the Oakland Athletic Complex at 7 p.m.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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