A shorthanded Buffalo Ridge Wildcats team ran out of gas in the second half and fell to the South Central Hawgs 31-13 Saturday in the Southern Plains Football League championship game in Truman.
The Wildcats traveled with 18 players and were missing several starters, including their starting quarterback and running back, much of their defensive secondary and their leading tackler on the defensive line. They led 13-12 at halftime, but were shut out in the second half by the Hawgs.
South Central has now won the SPFL title four straight years. They defeated Buffalo Ridge 9-7 in last year's championship game.
The Hawgs advance to the National Nineman Championship, which will be held July 27 in Corvalis, Oregon. They will face the South Valley Vandals, winners of the Oregon-based National Nineman Football League, for the second straight year. Last year the Hawgs defeated the Vandals 60-26 in the Metrodome.
Buffalo Ridge beat South Central 15-13 in a regular season game in Lake Benton on June 15, but couldn't outlast the Hawgs in the rematch Saturday.
The Wildcats grabbed a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter when Joey Nelson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and Dana Moore added the extra point. Following a South Central touchdown, Buffalo Ridge responded with a 10-yard scoring strike on a pass from Nelson to Brett Delaney to go up 13-12 heading into halftime.
The Wildcats' lack of players caught up with them in the second half as they failed to find the end zone. An interception return and a punt return for a touchdown by the Hawgs put South Central in control and the Hawgs claimed the title yet again.
Nelson finished the game 9 of 25 passing for 151 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jeff Thoreson led the rushing attack for Buffalo Ridge, carrying the ball 15 times for 98 yards.
On defense, Jason Fernholz tallied 10 tackles for the Wildcats and Justin Olsen had two sacks.
Buffalo Ridge ends the season with a 7-3 record.
Buffalo Ridge Individual Statistics
Rushing: Jeff Thoreson 15-98, Seth Wendland 5-19.
Passing (comp-att-yards-Int): Joey Nelson 9-25-151-1.
Receiving: Brett Delaney 3-55, TJ Newgard 3-54, Luke Tinklenberg 3-42.
Tackles: Jason Fernholz 10, Joe Stein 7, Delaney 7.
Sacks: Justin Olson 2, Skip Steinhof.
Interceptions: Tinklenberg, Eric Ossefoort.