NEEDLES, Calif. — It’s not as if Needles didn’t have its chances. The Mustangs were flagged for a pass interference on a 2-point conversion, an overtime touchdown slipped through their hands, and that was just in the game’s final few minutes.
In the end though, it was visiting Battle Mountain that was able to overcome a two-touchdown halftime deficit to beat the Needles football team 36-30 in overtime in Saturday’s Class 2A state semifinal match.
“The kids left it all on the line,” Needles coach Matt Fromelt said. “There’s nothing we can change. We played hard.”
In the first half, the Mustangs (10-1) looked like they might run away with it. Everything was working right, and they had a 22-8 lead after an insane escape act by quarterback Jayden Yeager that somehow turned into a passing touchdown as time expired in the half.
But the Longhorns (10-2) adjusted their game plan in the second half, and turned to a run-first offense that Needles had no answer for. After rushing seven times for 15 yards in the first half, Battle Mountain quarterback Gabe Naveran turned to his legs and tore apart the Mustangs’ defense to the tune of 116 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters.
The Mustangs never trailed in regulation, but Battle Mountain scored to bring the game to 30-28 with 2:35 left. On the 2-point try, the Mustangs were flagged for pass interference on a ball that appeared to be going out of bounds, and the Longhorns ran in their mulligan to tie it.
Neither team did anything on its late-game attempt to win it, and Needles got the ball first in overtime. The Mustangs went three-and-out, but it was the second-down incompletion to Doogie Harvey in the end zone that tipped off his hands that will haunt them.
Battle Mountain ran twice to put the ball on the precipice of the goal line, and Naveran’s quarterback sneak ended it.
“I’ll always be proud of the boys,” Fromelt said. “They played their butts off, and I’m proud of them. It doesn’t sour anything. When they get older they’ll look back at (this season) and be proud of themselves.”
With the Battle Mountain win and Pershing County (10-1) defeating Lincoln County (8-4), the Southern League will not have a representative in next week’s state title game.
Pershing County 37, Lincoln County 20 — At Lovelock, the Mustangs held the Lynx scoreless in the first half on the way to victory in the other semifinal.
Lincoln County trailed 30-6 after three quarters but battled back to within 30-20 with 6:02 to play. A Pershing County touchdown with 3:36 left salted away with the win.