NEEDLES, Calif. — In the heat of southern California, at Needles High School, the Battle Mountain Longhorns defeated the Needles Mustangs.
The 2A State Semifinal Playoff victory will return the Longhorns to the state title game against rival Pershing County.
On Saturday, the Longhorns (9-2) faced their toughest challenge of the season as they traveled to Needles, Calif., to face the undefeated (10-0) Needles Mustangs. The Mustangs dominated the first half, but the Longhorns came back for a 36-30 win in overtime.
The Longhorn defense started the game exactly how they wanted to, forcing the Mustangs to punt on the game’s opening drive. Unfortunately, Needles responded with Mustang defensive back Josiah Kidd intercepting Longhorn quarterback Gabe Naveran’s pass deep in Longhorn territory.
The Mustangs scored shortly after with a trick play where the Mustang running back took the handoff and at the last minute threw over the Longhorn defense for a touchdown to Mustang receiver Trey Tsosie. The Mustang touchdown pass was the only during the first quarter with the quarter ending with the Mustangs ahead 8-0.
During the second quarter, the Longhorns responded first and were able to tie the game with a three-play drive and an 8-yard touchdown pass from Naveran to Reese Artz. The score tied at 8-8. Battle Mountain would not score again in the first half.
Mustang quarterback Jayden Yeager completed two touchdowns late in the second quarter. The first went to Marcus Turner and the second to Gilman Jenkins with no time left in the first half. At halftime, things looked bleak for the Longhorns as they trailed 22-8.
The Battle Mountain boys didn’t give up though and came out strong in the third quarter. Naveran led the way for his team as he ran for a long gain before completing a pass to Artz inside the Mustang 5-yard line. Naveran capped off the drive with a touchdown run on the next play, bringing the score to 22-16.
After the Longhorn defense forced Needles to punt after three plays, Naveran went back to work. He was able to find a hole in the Mustang defense, breaking loose for a 45-yard touchdown run to tie the game. The Longhorns dropped the extra point hold and were forced to throw a tightly-contested pass to Artz. The failed conversion left the game tied at 22-22.
The Mustangs were now locked in a back and forth battle to win the final period of play. The Mustangs scored midway through the fourth quarter with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tsosie. Needles running back Turner caught the two-point conversion, bringing the Mustang lead to 30-22.
The Longhorns drove down the field on the following possession with the drive ending after Naveran completed an 8-yard pass to Artz for the Longhorn score. Initially, the Longhorns failed to tie the game at 30 as Artz dropped the two-point conversion.
However, the official called pass interference on the Mustangs, awarding a second try to the offense. Ostler broke a tackle deep in the backfield on the following play, spinning out into the flat and scoring. The Longhorns tied the game 30-30.
The teams prepared for overtime. Each team got an opportunity to score starting at the 10-yard line. The Longhorns stopped Needles from scoring on four straight plays and turned the ball over on downs.
The Longhorn offense got their opportunity and took advantage of it. On third down at the Needles 1-yard line, Naveran performed a quarterback sneak for the game-winning score.
“This was a great game for us... The effort they found today is what you need to play deep into November,” stated coach Mitch Domagala.
The Longhorns will take on bitter rival Pershing County Mustangs for the state title at Lowry High School in Winnemucca on Saturday at 1 p.m. The last time these two teams faced Pershing County won late 16-15.