East Butler had a chance with the ball in a final possession in Friday's game against Cross County but ran out of time before finding the end zone and suffered an 18-16 loss to the Cougars.
The Tigers trailed 6-0, 12-8 and 18-8, scored a fourth-quarter touchdown but couldn't generate another and fell to 3-2 on the season with their first loss since a setback Week 2 at Wisner-Pilger.
Both losses have come by a touchdown or less.
East Butler fell to Wisner-Pilger 20-24 on Sept. 6 to the No. 10 team in D-1 then suffered its latest loss to a 2-3 Cross County team that had dropped two straight.
East Butler and Cross County are both now 1-1 in D-1 District 3 trailing a 4-2 Osceola/High Plains squad that is 2-0.
Week 7 is a road match at 1-4 Exeter-Milligan/Friend followed by home games against 4-2 Osceola-High Plains and 2-3 Omaha Brownell Talbot.
"Cross County played well on defense, and their front line was difficult for us to handle," head coach Shawn Biltoft said. "We were not able to run the ball effectively but still gave ourselves a chance to win."
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That chance came through the air where quarterback Jaden Rhynalds was 17 of 30 for 176 yards and one touchdown. His favorite receiver was Trevin Brecka with nine catches, 135 yards and a touchdown. Rhynalds also led on the ground with 16 carries for 42 yards. East Butler managed just 56 yards on 20 attempts, less than three yards per carry.
Cross County created the first points on a 23-yard pass then failed on the two-point try in the first quarter. East Butler answered when Rhynalds capped a drive with a 1-yard plunge in the second and Brecka caught the two-point try, but the Cougars found the end zone again before halftime. Cross County finished its own drive with a 1-yard score then failed again on the conversion.
A 4-yard run and another missed conversion by Cross County made it 18-8 in the fourth quarter. Ryhnalds hit Brecka for a 17-yard score, then again on the two-pointer. A defensive stand gave East Butler one last chance but the Cross County defense held and the clock hit zeros.
"Cross County was able to move the ball on the ground and get the needed first downs to keep drives alive," Biltoft said. "We had a couple of opportunities and were not able to capitalize."
The Cougars had 171 yards rushing on 52 carries, also not particularly great at 3.3 yards per carry, but the Cross County defense rose up after three interceptions by the offense and made stops.
"Our team will focus on getting better each day," Biltoft said, "and finding ways to move the ball on the ground."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.ent.