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Big play goes the other way
Times photo: Mark Nesbitt Darlington senior Jason Boll works to tackle Cuba City quarterback Tanner Oglesby in the Cubans 20-14 win over the Redbirds Friday at Martens Field.
DARLINGTON - With Darlington's hurry-up offense, senior Trynton Schwartz believes no football game is out of reach for the Redbirds.

With Darlington and Cuba City tied at 14-14 with 1 minute, and 20 seconds left Friday at Martens Field, Schwartz had to think the Redbirds could come up with another homecoming miracle. But junior quarterback Alex Erickson's pass on third-and-1 was intercepted by Cuba City's Travis Schroeder and returned for a game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds left to give the Cubans a 20-14 win over the Redbirds.

"I was thinking we have a two-minute team," Schwartz said. "I think we are one of the best two-minute teams in the area. We have so much confidence under two minutes to make a big play."

Darlington (4-1, 2-1 SWAL) rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit. Erickson hooked up with Schwartz on a 33-yard TD pass and Erickson scored on a three-yard TD run.

"We just have to look forward to the next game," said Erickson, who completed 8 of 19 passes for 91 yards and rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries.

The first half was filled with missed scoring opportunities for Darlington. The Redbirds had two drives short-circuited inside the 16-yard line. The Redbirds ran nine plays inside the Cubans' 22-yard line in the first half, but failed to score.

A 33-yard first quarter run by Erickson set up the Redbirds' first scoring opportunity. However, on fourth-and-3 from the Cubans' 8, Erickson's 1-yard pass to junior Tucker Wiegel was well short of the first down marker and the Redbirds turned the ball over on downs.

The red zone struggles were "more than a little deflating," Darlington coach Scott Zywicki said.

"You can't get down there against a good team and not score anything," Zywicki said. "We can't let opportunities like we had in the first half slip away. You have to make those plays."

Darlington senior Jordon Bryson recovered a Cuba City fumble late in the first quarter at the Cubans' 26. The Redbirds drove to the 16, but the drive stalled when Darlington fumbled and Cuba City's Michael Horst recovered at the Cubans' 22-yard line.

The Cubans capitalized on the turnover with an 11-play, 78-yard drive, culminating in Michael Bruner's 1-yard TD plunge on fourth-and-goal to give the Cubans a 7-0 lead with 4:54 to go in the second quarter. Bruner rushed for 124 yards on 26 carries.

The Redbirds had three turnovers - two interceptions and a fumble - and had two turnovers on downs.

"In the first half, I think they definitely played more aggressive than us," Schwartz said. "When you are in close games like that, you have to come out strong. We didn't do that. It's something we have to fix for the rest of the season."

The Cubans capped their second possession of the third quarter, a seven-play, 53-yard drive, when John Frederick bulled his way to a 9-yard TD run, breaking a couple of tackles to give Cuba City (3-2, 3-0) a 14-0 lead.

Erickson engineered a seven-play, 81-yard drive late in the third quarter to put the Redbirds on the board when he connected with Schwartz on a 33-yard TD pass. The drive was highlighted by Erickson's 24-yard run on third-and-24 and junior Tommy Notter's 44-yard run. The Redbirds missed the extra point and trailed 14-6 with 2:43 left in the third quarter.

After Cuba City botched a snap and its punter was ruled down for having his knee touch the ground, the Redbirds had golden scoring opportunity late in the third quarter. Wiegel ripped off a 38-yard run that set up Erickson's 3-yard TD score. Erickson hit sophomore Seth Rowe with a two-point conversion pass to tie the score at 14-14 with 50 seconds to go in the third quarter.

"They (Cuba City) play two of the most difficult non-conference games for someone at our level," Zywicki said of the Cubans' games against Brodhead-Juda and Lancaster. "They have great athletes like we do. I knew it wouldn't be one-sided by any stretch of the imagination. It was going to come down to who executed, and they executed better than we did today."