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With just two seniors starting, Velma-Alma made nail-biters out of District 3-1A champion Minco in a 49-32 first-round loss in the Class A state playoffs.
The Comets (6-4, 4-3) held their own despite giving up 21 points in the second quarter and trailing 28-14 at the half. Minco (10-1, 6-0) couldn’t prevent the road team from climbing back into the game. Velma-Alma scored twice in the third quarter to make it a nine-point game. Then, on a trick play the two Comet senior starters increased the anxiety of the Bulldog faithful.
The trick-play saw Connor Sullivan score on a 77-yard pass from receiver Alan Beck. Coach Greg Gothard was impressed with the play.
“It was pretty neat that it worked out for us,” Gothard said. “It was a big play for us, trying to claw our way back in it.”
Even though the Bulldogs ended up scoring twice more to complete the final 17-point difference, Gothard said the game gave the players a lot of confidence heading into next year. Especially, after the Comets had lost their last two games against Empire and Healdton.
“It’s exciting, because we know we’ve still got everybody back,” Gothard said. “We’ve been on a downswing the last two weeks and then to be able to go out, have a chance and get after it, the excitement’s back in. Kids will be looking forward to next football season. I know I am.”
Sophomore running back Sarian Smith will likely be a big part of that future as he was once again a focal point in the offense Friday night. Smith scored on a 62-yard-run in the first quarter and Gothard doesn’t know yet what the ceiling is for the young back.
“He doesn’t even know how good he is, and I’m not sure any of us do,” Gothard said. “He’s come a million miles from his freshman year... I’m looking forward to what kind of football player he is going to become before it’s all said and done. He’s definitely a special kid.”
Sullivan’s play on Friday also stood out. Besides scoring on the long reception, he also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.