ST. JOHN — Pretty Prairie High School converted twice on fourth down and turned to magician Alex Mains to rescue the Bulldogs one last time.
Mains completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Justin Haflich with 15 seconds left to stun the St. John Tigers 36-32 in Tuesday night’s Eight-Man Division-I state football playoff action.
The Bulldogs benefited from a pass interference call on fourth-and-22 from their own 13-yard line. Main escaped pressure for the final time and flipped a 19-yard fourth down conversion to Stetson Broce to reach the Tiger 21-yard line. He sealed the Tigers’ fate with his second touchdown pass to Haflich, a play called Texas Tech. Haflich said he wasn’t even sure it was a touchdown in the far corner of the end zone.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Faflich. “I saw the referee putting his arms up for a touchdown.”
St. John quarterback Spencer Nusser matched Mains with three touchdown passes, including a perfect 39-yard strike to Francisco Calleros with 2:40 left in the game. Dean Wade caught a two-point conversion pass for a 32-30 Tigers lead. Nusser set up their go-ahead score with a fumble recovery at the Tigers 30-yard line.
The Tigers were one defensive play away twice on the Bulldogs’ game-winning 55-yard drive.
“We had our opportunities to win the balllgame,” St. John coach Nick Garcia said. “We had them fourth down-and-22 and fourth-and-10 and gave up first downs. It was pretty tough.
“They were out of timeouts. We didn’t make plays when we needed to. We’ve seen good quarterbacks like Mains this season.”
Garcia said the Tigers (8-2) fought hard in their first playoff appearance since 2077.
“We’re awfully disappointed right now, but we showed great character all night long,” Garcia said. “We kept on battling. A play here-or-there and we are playing Saturday. We stopped three downs, but there were four downs.”
The Tigers had a difficult time defending Mains, who accounted for four first-half touchdowns and 247 yards total offense. The Bulldogs led 24-16 at halftime despite missing four extra points.
“We were prepared to face a good quarterback all season long,” Garcia said. “Hats off to them. They are moving on and I wish them well.”
Pretty Prairie coach C.T. Young said it his most memorable playoff victory.
“That’s my No. 1 playoff victory. I’ve never been involved in a win like that,” Young said. “We’ve been on the other end before. St. John put on a lot of heat on Mains.”
Nusser completed seven passes for 194 yards. Zuriel Reyes was his top target, catching three balls for 113 yards, and Calleros three for 76 yards. Reyes caught a 25-yard second-half touchdown pass. Tailback Schuyler Brown rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries.
Mains connected with Haflich and Broce for first-half touchdown passes and added two scoring runs. Mains converted several plays after escaping Tiger pressure. No play loomed larger than his 77-yard touchdown strike to 6-foot-5 Broce on a third-and-16 play for a 12-8 lead.
Haflich caught a 42-yard touchdown pass and Schuyler Brown evened the score 6-6 on a 22-yard touchdown dash. Spencer Nusser added the 2-pointer. The Tigers regained the lead 16-12 on Zuriel Reyes’ 62-yard reception from Nusser.
Mains sold a play fake and dashed 33 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Mains scrambled out of pressure and completed a 27-yard pass to Broce after a 15-yard Tiger penalty. Mains scored from 1 yard with 3:18 left in the half.
The Tigers managed 159 yards offense with 92 yards rushing and 67 yards passing.
Pretty Prairie (8-2) will face top-ranked Ness City (10-0) Saturday at home. The Bulldogs have advanced to the Eight-Man I playoffs the past four years. The
Bulldogs lost to Eight-Man I state runner-up South Gray, Osborne and Baileyville the past three years.
The last appearance in the Kansas football playoffs was a nightmare for the St. John Tigers — a 64-0 loss to 2007 Class 2-1A state champion Smith Center.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Eight-Man Division-I Bi-District
At St. John
Pretty Prairie 36, St. John 32
Bulldogs 12 12 0 12 — 36
Tigers 16 0 8 8 — 32
Pretty Prairie — Justin Haflich 42 pass from Alex Mains (run failed), 10:49
St. John — Schuyler Brown 22 run (Spencer Nusser run), 5:20
Pretty Prairie — Stetson Broce 77 pass from Mains (run failed), 4:06
St. John — Zuriel Reyes 62 pass from Nusser (Dean Wade pass from Nusser), 3:18
Pretty Prairie — Mains 33 run (pass failed), 7:06
Pretty Prairie — Mains 1 run (pass failed), 4:11
St. John — Reyes 25 pass from Nusser (Nusser run), 0:12
Pretty Prairie — Haflich 48 run (pass failed), 11:50
St. John — Francisco Calleros 39 pass from Nusser (Dean pass from Nusser), 2:40
Pretty Prairie — Haflich 13 pass from Mains (pass failed), 0:15
First Downs 14 12
Total Net Yards 373 303
Rushes-yards 40-173 41-109
Passing 203 194
Comp-Att-Int 7-19-1 7-18-2
Punts-Avg 2-37 3-36
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 7-50 1-15
RUSHING — PP, Mains 19-82; Haflich 6-53; Keifer George 10-22; Mark Schnittker 5-16; SJ, Brown 21-96; Nusser 14-1, Ethan Long 3-7, Reyes 3-2.
PASSING — PP, Mains 7-19-1, 203; SJ, Nusser 7-18-2, 194.
RECEIVING — PP, Broce 5-135; Haflich 2-55; Trey Tallant 2-13; SJ, Reyes 3-113; Francisco Calleros 3-76; Long 1-5.