MOHALL - On their first play of the season, the Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood Mavericks fumbled deep in their own territory.
It was one of five turnovers the Mavericks conceded to defending 9-man runner-up Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn during Tuesday's Region 3 opener. The Sioux secured a 28-8 victory.
Reese Schell led the way for W-N-G, gaining 126 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries from his quarterback position. He threw for another 147 and two more scores.
Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn junior Chase Conway gained 51 total yards and a touchdown during Tuesday’s 28-8 victory over Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood.
It was a good start for the Sioux, less than a year removed from their state championship game appearance. But coach Tom Nesvold expects improvement from his team in the future.
"You've gotta execute, you've gotta play hard and you've gotta play hard for four quarters," Nesvold said. "I like how we came back in the second half and played a little more physical, started limiting our mistakes. We were thinking a little too much in that first half, and in the second half we came out and just started playing a little bit more."
The Mavericks weren't the only team to fumble during their first possession. It took the Sioux two plays into their opening drive to hand the ball right back to M-L-S.
But the home team struggled offensively in the first half. The Mavericks didn't cross midfield until a Trevor Evanger 39-yard scamper during the waning moments of the second quarter.
W-N-G drew first blood in the first quarter through Schell, who found the end zone with his feet from 21 yards out.
Just over four minutes later, running back Chase Conway - who amassed 51 rushing yards - extended the Sioux's advantage with an 8-yard touchdown plunge.
An improved defensive effort from the Mavericks limited W-N-G in the second quarter. With less than 10 seconds on the clock, that same effort cut the M-L-S deficit in half.
With Schell leading the Sioux into Sioux territory and less than a minute on the clock, it seemed Westhope-N-G might stretch its lead going into the half.
But Connor Brackenbury intercepted Schell down the far sideline, returning it for a 69-yard touchdown as time expired.
"We thought they were gonna wear down, and that pick-six put us exactly where we wanted to be. We wanted it to be a close game at halftime and come out ready to pound the football in the second half," M-L-S coach Cale Peterson said. "Unfortunately it didn't turn out for us tonight with the turnovers."
W-N-G needed just three plays during their opening third-quarter drive to secure their third touchdown of the game.
The Mavericks forced a third-and-long situation after a pair of stifled Sioux rushing attempts. On the ensuing play, Schell found wide receiver Trent Marquart, who galloped past the M-L-S secondary and into the end zone for a 62-yard score.
"After halftime, our coaches got us fired up and we came out ready to play," Schell said. "We started out a little sloppy, but we executed a lot better in the second half."
Schell put the finishing touches on the win with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Chance Kitzman during on a third-and-17.
On Saturday, W-N-G welcomes Kemnare-Bowbells-Burke County for its home opener, whle M-L-S travels to New Town.
Joe Mellenbruch covers Class B high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.