JAYTON — Highland and Motley County engaged in an exciting finale Saturday to Jayton’s three-day Grid-iron Classic.
After losing 60-12 a year earlier, the Hornets were in this year’s season-opening game to the very end.
In fact, Highland held two double-digit leads in the first half and was ahead 59-54 for most of the fourth quarter. But with 1:19 left, Motley County scored on a 26-yard run and kicked the extra point, then held on for a hard-fought 62-59 win.
Highland players Ethan Wilson and Shelby Howard accounted for seven of the team’s eight touchdowns.
Wilson ran for 148 yards on 12 carries with four TDs, scoring on runs of 3, 21, 36 and 45 yards, while Howard scored three times — first on a 26-yard run, then on a 40-yard pass thrown by quarterback Jacob Rich-burg and finally on a 43-yard kickoff return.
Wilson got his 45-yard scoring run on the final play of the third quarter, which after the PAT gave Highland its final lead of 59-54. He also caught two passes for 55 yards. Howard rushed for 85 yards. Eli Shelton (78 yards rushing) also scored on a 25-yard run.
Although Highland had the upper hand most of the first half, the game was tied 14-14 after one quarter and 36-36 at intermission. The team’s biggest lead (36-20) came when Howard caught Richburg’s 40-yard TD pass with 1:07 left in the half.
Highland rushed for 311 yards and had another 184 through the air. The Hor-nets were also able to regain the lead after trailing 48-36 midway through the third quarter.
In addition to Wilson and Howard, Shelton had two catches for 29 yards while Kevin Box caught a 45-yard pass and Gaga Soedarsono a 15-yarder.
Soedarsono was the leading tackler with nine solo stops plus four assists, and also forced a fumble. Wilson had eight solo stops, one assist and an nterception; Box had six solo tackles and three assists; Howard had four solo tackles and three assists; Jon Basye had five solo stops and one assist; and Shelton, Richburg and Isaac Rios had four tackles and two assists.
Seth Wood had both of Highland’s fumble recoveries and both Richburg and Shelton forced fumbles.
Highland was facing a Motley County team that was ranked No. 10 in the state in Six-Man Division II, according to sixmanfoot-ball.com, and was a 17-point favorite over the Hornets.
But Highland, despite allowing 28 straight points at one point, never trailed by more than 12. The team is back on the road this Friday at Sterling City.