Nashville’s hopes of playing for a state championship blew away in the bitter November wind as the Hornets lost at Auburn 22-6 in the Class 2A semifinals Saturday afternoon.
Three turnovers and a botched punt doomed the Hornets, who found themselves playing from behind all game long. It was a flip of the script for a Nashville team that took advantage of takeaways and early leads to get this deep in the postseason.
“We’ve been very fortunate to create turnovers and that would give us field position and momentum that we need, and we didn’t get that today,” said Nashville coach Tim Kuhn. “They took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t, that’s why they are moving on.”
Auburn, 10-3 and seeded No. 12, gets its unlikely shot at a 2A state championship at 1 p.m. Friday against Downs (Tri-Valley), a 20-12 winner over Wethersfield Co-Op in the other semifinal game.
Nashville’s season ends with a 9-4 record. The Hornets last reached the state semifinals in 2004 and last advanced to the championship game in 1998, placing second.
“It would have been a dream come true to play in DeKalb, but this is only the third team in the history of the program to ever make it this far,” said Kuhn. “I couldn’t ask for a better a season, I just would like to have one more game with these guys.”
The Hornets trailed 14-0 at halftime but marched 74 yards on 10 plays to score on the opening drive of the second half. Kyle Schnitker’s 6 yard touchdown run cut the lead to 14-6 with seven-and-a-half minutes left in the third quarter.
But the Trojans answered with a big drive of their own, using 12 plays to go 66 yards. Ryan McLaughlin ran eight yards for the touchdown, and after an illegal blocking penalty on the two-point conversion try pushed the ball back to the 21, quarterback Drew Chance fired a bullet to Drew Points for a two-point conversion to make the score 22-6.
“We came out at halftime feeling pretty good,” said Kuhn. “We put some points on the board, but they were able to answer. That’s the nature of the game, you just can’t play from behind very often and expect good things.”
The Hornets outgained Auburn 228-203, but two interceptions and a fumble doomed Nashville.
Hunter Schultze led Nashville’s ground game with 58 yards on 16 carries, while Schnitker added 32 yards on 11 attempts. Andrew Kash was 10-of-25 passing for 96 yards. Royce Newman hauled in five of those passes for 70 yards.
The Trojans had just two players run the ball during the game. Chance ran from the QB spot 25 times for 71 yards, as McLaughlin had 72 yards on 18 attempts. Chance was efficient throwing the ball when Auburn needed to, going 10-for-13 for 60 yards.