The Cascade football team flashed its depth and experience on offense Sept. 3 as the Cougars dazzled Durant Wildcat defenders with one long run after another in a 32-16 victory at home.
The Cougars were without standout running back, Jack Menster, but still totaled gaudy rushing numbers behind the stellar performance of senior Tanner Simon. Simon, who normally plies his trade at wide receiver, was pressed into action at running back and delivered 187 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns. He splintered the Wildcat defense with two 41-yard bursts that left would-be tacklers winded and dizzy in his wake.
“Tanner Simon ... he’s played running back a lot in his career so we knew he could step in and he ran hard tonight. He made some fabulous runs,” coach Tim Frake said after the game. “We even got sophomore Cass Hoffman in and he made some good plays. It was fun to see those two guys carry the load tonight.”
The run-heavy Cougars were able to balance their attack through the air. Senior quarterback Justin Roling tallied 143 yards passing with two touchdowns. His main connection was junior tight end, Luke Ruggeberg, who caught four passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
“Justin’s gotta get more consistent . . . but it was nice to open it up (passing) because it will open up our run game,” said Frake.
The Cougars opened the scoring with a strong drive featuring the first of Simon’s 41-yard runs to take a 7-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, a Durant punt bottled up the Cougars at their own 14. On the first Cougar play, Roling’s pass was batted into the air and picked off by the Wildcats. Durant running back Nolan DeLong took it from there, blasting through Cascade defenders on a bone-rattling touchdown run. After a successful two-point try the Wildcats were ahead 8-7.
The game was developing shades of the prior week when the Cougars dominated play early but trailed because of turnovers and porous defense. This time the Cascade defense stiffened and fought it out all night against a Durant offense driven by the talented DeLong.
Frake was pleased with the improvement his defense made from the nightmare performance against Monticello. “Our defense played a lot better tonight. We still have guys out of position but we’ll keep working. He (DeLong) is a heck of a running back. He’s one of the best. He was all over the field... He got a couple of touchdowns on us but we made him work. We made him earn it.”
Ruggeberg led the team in tackles from his linebacker position with five solo tackles and seven overall. Cade Rausch had six tackles, four solo; Brennan Booth four solo; Evan Foust four, three solo; Simon had three solo; and Cole McDermott had three, two solo.
A Cougar drive built on a 32-yard jaunt by Simon and ending with his nine-yard touchdown run put Cascade back on top 13-8 with just under five minutes remaining in the half. The Cougars got the ball back on an interception by Cass Hoffman. Hoffman’s interception put them at the Durant 31. Roling promptly hit Ruggeberg in the right flat with a short pass and the tight end did the rest, dodging defenders and dancing into the end zone to give the Cougars a 19-8 cushion right before halftime.
Cascade began the second half with excellent field position after Simon’s 62-yard kickoff return set the Cougars up inside the Durant 35. The Cougars were able to capitalize when Simon bailed out a seemingly stalled possession with a touchdown burst on third and goal from the 20, putting them ahead 25-8.
Durant responded with a five-play, 55-yard drive to cut the deficit to 25-16 as DeLong continued his one-man assault against the Cougar defense.
The Cougars put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with an 84-yard drive highlighted by a 26-yard completion to Simon and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Ruggeberg. Durant’s last chance to keep any drama in the outcome was snuffed out when Cade Rausch recovered a fumble at the three-yard line to end a long Durant drive.
“We’re still working on some of the kinks on how we’re going to call our offense in terms of who is going where,” Frake said, “And at practice sometimes we don’t have the full group that we need. Sometimes it’s a chess match and you’re trying to play with checkers.”