Tigers#8217; season ends at Southern Choctaw, 37-14

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Luverne Tigers saw its dream of Class 2A state title end on Friday night against top-ranked Southern Choctaw in Silas, 37-14.

LHS head coach Brad Waggoner said he hated the loss for his seniors the most.

“I told them they had nothing to be ashamed of,” said Waggoner, whose first Luverne team finished the year 9-3. “The provided a good example for our younger guys about how to be leaders.”

Turnovers, said Waggoner killed his team’s chances to spring the upset against the Indians.

And the final statistics indicate Waggoner was right. Southern Choctaw gained 374 yards of total offense. Luverne was almost neck-in-neck with the Indians, totaling 368 yards offensively on the night. The Tigers had 13 first downs to the Indians’ eight.

But the Tigers fumbled the ball three times and threw two interceptions, one as Luverne was driving near the end of the second half and looking to tie a 15-8 game, at the time in favor of the Indians.

“It was 15-8 and we were on their 40-yard line,” said Waggoner. “They picked it off and ran it back all the way.”

Southern Choctaw’s defense also rose to the occasion as the Luverne offense approached the red zone. The Tigers were inside the Indians’ 20-yard line five times yet came away with no points.

“They were good,” Waggoner said. “Lots of speed and size. They’re defense buckled down on us. They’re the best team we’ve played all year long. They’ve got four big running backs and run out of the I-formation. They’ve passed on a lot of teams but we were able to stop that. We knew going in we weren’t going to be able to turnover the ball against them and that was the difference.”

The Tigers received 118 yards and touchdown from workhorse running back Fred Hawkins. Receiver Rod Rutledge hauled in 10 passes for Luverne, with D.J. McCreary hauling in one score from quarterback Ryan Brown.

Luverne loses eight seniors next year, but Waggoner is already preparing the underclassmen to take over for another run at state.

“I told our guys that our goal is never just to make the playoffs,” he said. “We want to win a state title.”

The Tigers return eight offensive starters, including the team’s leading rusher in Hawkins, and nine starters on defense.

But especially missed will be Brown, who has started at quarterback for the Tigers since he was a sophomore.

“You’re not going to replace a player with experience like Ryan Brown,” said Waggoner. “He played a lot of football. And we’re going to miss Jessie (Dixon). He was always dependable.”

The Tigers also lose Rutledge to graduation, who Waggoner said had his “best year ever”, and Waggoner said he’ll miss seeing McCreary on both the sidelines and the field.

“He’s was a spark plug and he always had the ability to get the kids up,” said Waggoner.