CENTRAL CITY — There were plenty of new faces, but still bountiful options for the Lone Tree high school football team.
Three different players posted first-half rushing touchdowns as the 10th-ranked Lions held off an improved Central City squad, 26-18, in an non-district 8-player season opener Thursday night at the Central City Athletic Complex.
“We graduated a lot of guys last year and we knew that things would not necessarily come as easy to us this year,” first-year Lone Tree Coach Aaron Bohr said. “Every single day, the guys did all the right things and to see it pay off in a really hard-fought game, it’s very gratifying.”
Lone Tree graduated eight seniors from last season’s 8-1 team, one of only two (along with fellow 8-player school Coon Rapids-Bayard) in the state to miss the playoffs with just one loss in the first year of the 16-team postseason format.
Anxious to display a reloaded roster, the Lone Tree defense forced a turnover at the Central City 12-yard-line on the opening drive of the game. From there, it took 5-foot-9, 165-pound tailback Bryce Houser just three plays to cross the goal line. The junior’s three-yard plunge less than three minutes into the game gave the Lions a 6-0 lead.
“It gets you pumped,” Houser said. “When you get a good defensive stop and a turnover at their 12-yard-line, you know you’ve got to punch it in. Once you do, it’s great.”
Houser was the go-to ball carrier for the Lone Tree offense with 27 rushes for 161 yards. After Central City evened the game at 6-6 midway through the first quarter, 6-foot-5 senior Brock Smith proved too tough to tackle on a 24-yard TD run that reclaimed the lead for Lone Tree at 12-6.
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Smith later lined up at quarterback for an 8-yard keeper that sent the Lions to halftime with a 20-12 lead. Quarterback Harmon Miller extended the Lone Tree lead to two scores with a 1-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the second half.
Central City quarterback Braxton Van Alst kept the Wildcats close with long touchdown passes of 60 yards to Wade McKinney and 62 to Cody Gray, but the Lone Tree defense stiffened at the end of the first half and during a fourth-quarter shutout that sealed the victory.
“The sky’s the limit,” Lone Tree linebacker Casey Shalla said. “We had two missed assignments that led to touchdowns, just two on the first night and for a week zero game, that is pretty awesome. Other than that, we played a pretty rock-solid game.”
Lone Tree (1-0) visits Tri-County Aug. 25, while Central City (0-1) hosts Springville.
“We held our own and obviously we had chances to win,” Central City Coach Matt Miers said. “Credit Lone Tree. They’re a great team.”
AT CENTRAL CITY
No. 10 Lone Tree 26, Central City 18
Lone Tree 12-8-6-0—26
Central City 6-6-6-0—18
LT — Bryce Houser 3 run (run failed)
CC — Kyle Marsh 7 run (run failed)
LT — Brock Smith 24 run (pass failed)
CC — Wade McKinney 60 pass from Braxton Van Alst (run failed)
LT — Brock Smith 8 run (Bryce Houser run)
LT — Harmon Miller 1 run (run failed)
CC — Cody Gray 62 pass from Braxton Van Alst (pass failed)
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