ANDERSON, Mo. -- The Nevada Tigers varsity football team took to the road for the final time in the regular season Friday night, taking on what head coach Wes Beachler called "not a typical 2-5 team" in the McDonald County Mustangs.
The Tigers came into the contest riding the momentum from four consecutive wins in which they averaged 48 points per game. The Mustangs, on the other hand, came into the fifth game of the season winless, before taking down East Newton by a final score of 50-27 in Week 6 and Marshfield last week, 48-14.
The last time the Mustangs and the Tigers squared off was Nevada's Homecoming game last year, in which the Tigers picked up a 32-19 victory. Not only did the Tigers come into the night hoping to keep their winning streak alive, but also defending their No. 1 seed in Class 4, District 7.
The Tigers came into the contest knowing they would have to keep an eye on the downfield blocking ability of the McDonald County offense and stay focused on playing well and did so, spoiling Senior Night and taking down the Mustangs by a final score of 43-34.
The Mustangs got great field position to start after recovering a botched kickoff return by Nevada at the Tigers 32-yard line. McDonald County wasted little time taking advantage as quarterback Jake Wood ran for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 6-0 after the extra-point was blocked.
Dalton Hendren came into the night needing just 70 yards for the Tigers to break the 1,000-yard barrier on the season and made significant headway on Nevada's opening drive, capping off the drive with a 47-yard touchdown run to make it 7-6 Nevada. Hendren finished the drive with a total of 54 yards, leaving him just 16 short of that 1,000-yard milestone after just one drive.
Bradey Denney wasted little time keeping the momentum going as he shut the Mustangs down on the defensive side of the ball on their second drive. Denney got in on the offensive show as well, capping off the Tigers' next drive with a 34-yard run to make it 13-6 after the missed extra-point, with just under 6 minutes left in the first quarter.
The Tigers added to their lead on the first play of the second quarter when Hendren took his second touchdown of the game into the end zone from a yard out. A failed 2-point conversion gave the Tigers a 13-point lead at 19-6 with 11:56 left in the half.
Jantsen Lynn cut the lead back to seven with a 4-yard touchdown run on the next drive, weaving his way through the middle of the Tigers' defense and into the end zone. Keegan Bell blocked the extra-point for the Tigers, however, keeping the lead at 19-12.
Hendren broke the 1,000-yard barrier on the ensuing drive, running for more than 30 more yards to bring his total on the night to 87. Hendren ultimately capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run that made it 27-12 after the 2-point conversion with just over 5 minutes to go in the half.
Hendren added his fourth touchdown of the night just before the half came to a close, pushing a 7-yard run into the end zone. After the 2-point conversion was successful through the middle of the Mustangs defense, the Tigers took a 35-12 lead into the locker room at the half.
Hendren led all rushers in the opening half as he finished with 135 yards on 12 carries. For McDonald County, Lynn led the way with 88 yards on 11 carries.
Bell made another big defensive play early in the second half for the Tigers as he stopped a McDonald County drive with an interception inside the Nevada 15. Late in the same period, Lynn got his second touchdown of the game as he took a 21-yard scamper through the the Nevada defense and into the end zone to make it 35-20 after the 2-point conversion.
Ever since lineman Sam Ellifrits left the game early in the second half due to an apparent knee injury, the Tigers never really could get much going on either side of the ball. The extent of Ellifrits' injury was still unknown at the end of the game and the Mustangs took full advantage of those struggles, pulling to within just nine points on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Wood to make it 35-26 after the third blocked PAT of the game.
Late in the game, the Mustangs went to the passing game with surprising effectiveness as Wood picked the Tigers' defense apart through the air. With 5:46 to go in the game, however, the Tigers made what was arguably the biggest stop of the game, taking the ball back on downs at their own 18.
McDonald County got the ball back quickly, though, and wasted little time moving the ball down the field to cut the lead to one on a 5-yard touchdown run by Travis Meador to make it 35-34 with 3:05 to go.
On the ensuing drive, however, Hendren was once again able to come up big for the Tigers, converting a third-and-13 with a 14 yard run with less than two minutes to go. The Tigers followed that up with Hendren's fifth touchdown of the night on a 31-yard run, giving the Tigers a 43-34 victory in what turned out to be a hard-fought war of attrition.
Hendren finished the night with 188 yards on 21 carries, putting his season total at 1,118 yards.
With the win, the Tigers' record improved to 6-2 on the year. Nevada is scheduled to finish the regular season on Friday, Oct. 19 at home against the Tigers of Stockton, who beat Pleasant Hope by a final score of 26-7 for their first win of the season Friday night.
In other Class 4, District 7 action Friday night, Bolivar beat Springfield Catholic, 53-0, Grain Valley lost to Oak Grove, 54-7, Grandview lost to Kearney, 51-14, Harrisonville beat Odessa, 40-8, Pleasant Hill lost to Excelsior Springs, 41-21 and Warrensburg lost to Clinton, 27-6.