The Fort Calhoun football team was in its prevent defense with five defensive backs as the Auburn offense snapped the ball.

Coach Andrew Christensen said his Pioneers were in position for the most important play of Friday's home game, but they weren't needed as the Bulldogs' pass attempt bounced off of a slot receiver's hands and to the ground on fourth-and-5. The incompletion sealed Fort Calhoun's 20-13 victory.

“I couldn't be more proud,” the coach said of his defense's performance, giving assistant coach Jason Thomas' unit its due credit. “We were able to get into the victory formation and get out of there.”

The celebration was on the field, in the stands and in the postgame locker room. Christensen said the player's faces told the story.

“It's what coaches live for,” he added.

The road to the Pioneers' first win — but its second in the past three games dating back to last fall — began when quarterback Grant Halford connected with fellow senior Tyler Strauss for the game's first score. The second quarter pass put Fort Calhoun out front 7-0.

The home team held the lead through the second half thanks to a third-quarter Halford touchdown scramble and Michael Shirley's 6-point reception during the fourth. The Pioneers led 20-7 when junior hauled Halford's second touchdown pass of the game, and did enough to win by seven.

Christensen said his team's mindset coming into the season helped it beat an Auburn squad that routed it 45-0 just a season ago. That 2018 loss was just the second of eight for the Pioneers last fall.

“We couldn't come into this season as a 1-8 team,” Christensen said. “These guys have been working year round and I love them for it.”

Halford was 12-for-21 through the air for 177 yards and two scores. Strauss caught four of those passes for 69 yards, while Kaden Therkildsen caught three for 63, including a 38-yarder. Shirley had two catches for 35 yards.

Fort Calhoun's Dillon Dierks led the way with 47 rushing yards, averaging 5.2 yards carry.

Defensively, Therkildsen had 12 total tackles, while Dierks had 10 and Jayce Douchey tallied seven. Malachi King sacked the Bulldogs' QB and Therkildsen caused a fumble.

Isaac Blizzard was 2-for-3 on Pioneer extra point kicks, too.

“Fort Calhoun football was never gone,” Christensen said Friday night, but he and the Pioneers want to show Class C1 they're back in 2019.

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