NEVADA - Nevada junior Ayden Rhodes couldn’t contain his emotions.
With a slight drizzle coming down Rhodes wander out of the Nevada football team’s huddle and just walked slowly out on his own with his hands cupped to the back of his head, tears running down his face and an expression of disbelief.
Nevada - ranked 10th in Class 2A - had just knocked off No. 7 Benton, 17-3, at Cub Stadium for one of the biggest wins in program history.
“It means a lot,” Rhodes said. “It’s just so great to come out here with all these fans out here on a cold night. Man, it’s just great.”
Rhodes made a crucial interception for Nevada in the third quarter to help secure the win.
Nevada had built its 17-3 lead, but Benton drove inside the Cub red zone where the Bobcats faced a fourth-and-13 from the Nevada 15. Benton quarterback Clay Krousie had hurt Nevada with passes over the middle, but this time Rhodes was ready.
He stepped in front of a Krousie pass and returned it 63 yards to the Bobcat 32.
“I was watching it the whole way and I saw the quarterback’s eyes the entire time,” Rhodes said. “I just made a play on the ball. It was great.”
That play symbolized what Nevada was all about the entire night. The Cub defense bent, giving up 319 yards, but didn’t break against a Benton team that came into the game averaging 40.6 points.
“We were playing like animals,” Nevada linebacker Caden Jones said.
Jones came up with a clutch sack on Benton’s final drive of the game with some help from Ross Uthe. The Bobcats were facing fourth down on the Nevada 14 when Jones got to Krousie and sewed up the win.
“It was awesome,” Jones said. “I just wrapped him up and I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.”
Jones and Rhodes both credited assistant coaches John Bass and Cary Thompson for coming up with a great game plan to stiffel the Bobcats.
“We’ve got to thank our defensive coordinators,” Rhodes said. “They were throwing stunts at them all night and they just kept them on their heels the entire night.”
Caeden DaSilva added an interception in the fourth quarter for the Cubs on defense. Nevada forced Benton to turn the ball over on downs twice in the second quarter, with the first stop leading to the first Cub touchdown of the game to break a 3-3 tie.
“Benton is a really good football team, but I will give our kids a ton of credit - they executed the game plan and did it as hard as they possibly could,” Nevada head coach Andrew Kleeman said. “We put them in some different positions and we knew it would be difficult and I thought they responded very well.”
Rhodes and DaSilva, who both missed time earlier in the season, came up huge at safety to keep Benton’s explosive passing attack in check. Nevada also dominated in the trenches up front.
“Our defensive line is a big component of what won us that game,” Kleeman said. “They were absolutely winning the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on one of the best quarterbacks in (Class 2A). They sometimes go overlooked, but their effort and tenacity tonight was outstanding.”
Lucas Rogers had six tackles and a sack, Jones five stops and a sack and Noah Adelmund five tackles and one stop behind the line for Nevada on defense. Rhodes, Carter Franzen and Jordan Barrett each chipped in four tackles.
The great defensive performance took all the pressure off the Cub offense. Keaton Fry was only making his third start at quarterback and he wasn’t rattled at all despite throwing an early interception.
“We just get to run the ball down their throats every time - it’s great,” Fry said. “We get to do what we’re good at.”
Fry threw for 146 yards and also ran for 97 and both Nevada touchdowns. His first score was a 6-yard run that capped a short 44-yard drive set up by a Cub defensive stand on fourth down and the second came off a 3-yard run to finish a 53-yard drive early in the third quarter.
DaSilva and Rhodes also had big nights on offense.
In just his second game of the season DaSilva caught eight passes for 93 yards.
“I was just doing my job,” DaSilva said. “It’s what you work for in the offseason and during practice.”
Rhodes caught five passes for 52 yards and added 50 yards rushing. Lucas Rogers ran for 47 yards and Jones 40.
Add in strong play on special teams - Kody Kruschwitz made a 32-yard field goal and averaged 36 yards on five punts - and the Cubs turned in their most complete effort to give them their first victory over an elite team in a long time.
“That’s one of the best wins I’ve had as a coach and I know it’s going to go down as one of the better wins we’ve had in Nevada history,” Kleeman said. “I am so proud of our kids and how far we’ve come.”
“It was just this game that set the tone for our season, but it was the nine months before it,” Kleeman said. “We have a lot of kids that put in a lot of time in preparation into making this a successful season and a lot of people don’t see that work that goes on in the weight room and at camps and at open fields.”
Benton fell to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the district. Krousie completed 24 of 40 passes for 276 yards with the two interceptions and Jacob Brecht caught 10 balls for 105 yards and added 11 tackles plus an interception.
Nevada improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the district. The win gave the Cubs a leg up on the district title and a spot in the playoffs.
“We’ve got the best team in 2A right now in my opinion,” Rhodes said. “We put the pieces together tonight.”
But there is still plenty of work to be done in order for Nevada to reach all of its goals.
“We know that every game that we play is against a quality opponent,” Kleeman said. “We know we’ve got to bing it every single week.”
Next up for Nevada is a road game against traditional power West Marshal (4-2, 2-0)l. The game takes place next Friday at 7 p.m. in State Center.
Nevada 17, Benton 3
B 3 0 0 0 - 3
N 3 7 7 0 - 17
B - Blake Osborn 43 FG, 7:48.
N - Kody Kruschwitz 32 FG, 1:31.
N - Keaton Fry 6 run (Kruschwitz kick), 9:48.
N - Fry 3 run (Kruschwitz kick), 8:15.
Team statistics B N
First downs 18 27
Rushes-yards 20-43 49-247
Passing 24-40-2 12-25-1
Passing yards 276 146
Total yards 319 393
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Punts-average 4-44.0 5-27.0
Penalties-yards 6-30 7-51
Rushing: B - Lawrence Wallace 10-48, Turner Schroeder 1-10, Austin Timmerman 1-2, Clay Krousie 8-(-17). N - Keaton Fry 23-97, Ayden Rhodes 5-52, Lucas Rogers 5-47, Caden Jones 14-40, Caeden DaSilva 2-11.
Passing: B - Krousie 24-40-2-276. N - Fry 12-25-1-146.
Receiving: B - Jacob Brecht 10-105, Landen Schmuecker 6-83, Schroeder 6-72, Cade Timmerman 1-14, Wallace 1-2. N - DaSilva 8-93, Rhodes 3-50, Jones 1-3.
Tackles: B - Brecht 11, Ian Rupp 10, Ethan Weirather 6, Kyler Mahan 5, Schroeder 5, A. Timmerman 5. N - Rogers 6, Jones 5, Noah Adelmund 5, Rhodes 4, Jordan Barrett 4, Carter Franzen 4.
Sacks: B - Weirather. N - Jones, Rogers.
Fumble recoveries: B - Rupp.
Interceptions: B - Brecht. N - DaSilva, Rhodes.