BASCOM - The lights went out at Hopewell-Loudon just before the Chieftains shined brightest.
Tyler Tyree hit 10 of 18 second-half passes, including four big connections with Logan Sendelbach in the game's final 13 minutes, as H-L rallied to down luckless Otsego 21-17 Friday.
It was the 21st straight loss for the Black Knights over the past three seasons and there were many times they seemingly deserved a better fate. But the Chieftains came up with repeated big plays to give new coach Jeremy Nutter his second win without a loss.
"I said last week a lot of these guys haven't played under these lights," Nutter said. "This is their second time and you talk about being battle-tested. We had to make plays to win the game and you have to view that as a good thing for our team."
The challenge became clear when Otsego sophomore quarterback Ryan Smoyer hit Cody Evans on a 49-yard bomb to set up Ian Fleetwood's 4-yard touchdown run. That gave the Black Knights a 17-14 lead with 7:50 to play.
Hopewell-Loudon advanced to its 45 when a bank of lights went out with 6:27 to go. It might have been a moment of anxiety for the Chieftains, but Nutter said it was the moment of truth instead.
H-L 21, Otsego 17
Otsego01007 - 17
Hopewell-Loudon0 777 - 21
H-L - Alex Ratchen 3 pass from Tyler Tyree (Cody Ickes kick), 11:17
O - Sam Forshay 12 run (Jonah Harter kick), 6:48
O - Harter 31 FG, :02
H-L - Logan Sendelbach 52 pass from Tyree (Ickes kick), :52
O - Ian Fleetwood 4 run (Harter kick), 7:50
H-L - Logan Kirby 2 run (Ickes kick), 3:47
RUSHING: Otsego - Forshay 17-86; Fleetwood 8-47;; Ryan Smoyer 4-(minus-10); Drake Johnson 3-3 Codie Serrato 2-5; Job Jay 1-(minus-1). Hopewell-Loudon - Tyree 15-25; Ickes 13-(minus-6); Kirby 3-8.
PASSING: Otsego - Smoyer 6-12-0-104. Hopewell-Loudon - Tyree 16-31-0-202.
RECEIVING: Otsego - Cody Evans 4-94; Travis Podolak 1-8; Jay 1-2. Hopewell-Loudon - Sendelbach 7-129; Austin Harrison 5-42; Ratchen 2-17; Taylor Bustillos 2-1.
"There is no question everybody was tight," Nutter said. "The lights go out and my players came to me and they couldn't wait for those things to get turned back on. I looked in their eyes and felt so much better about their mentality as they took the field.
"They wanted it and they were going to get it," he said. "And that's just what they did."
The Chieftains converted twice on third-and-long - once on Tyree's 18-yard run and the other on Sendelbach's leaping grab of a Tyree pass at the 2. That set up Logan Kirby's middle smash for the winning touchdown with 3:47 to play.
The win was sealed when, after Alex Ratchen sacked Smoyer for a 9-yard loss to force a Knight punt, the Chieftains ran out the game's final 3:05 and turned Otsego's major challenge into yet another almost-but-not-quite.
"I'm to the point where I'm done with moral victories," Knight coach Erik Johnson said. "We need to win some ballgames. I think we're good enough right now we shouldn't expect to just be close, we need to win."
Hopewell-Loudon opened the scoring when Tyree hit tight end Ratchen for a 3-yard touchdown with 11:17 left in the first half. Back-to-back Tyree passes to Austin Harrison for 24 yards and Sendelbach for 30 set up the score.
But Otsego countered when Sam Forshay ran in from the 12 on the second play after Fleetwood recovered a Tyree fumble at the 19.
The Knights then took the upper hand at 10-7 at the half as Jonah Harter boomed a 31-yard field goal to finish a 54-yard drive with two seconds left.
It wasn't until late in the third quarter that Hopewell-Loudon was able regain the upper hand after Kirby and Troy Schmitz combined to tackle a scrambling Fleetwood for a 16-yard loss. That forced a punt to give H-L good field position.
Sendelbach, who caught seven passes for 129 yards, broke free deep and Tyree hit him for a 52-yard score. The Knights gambled with man coverage most of the night and Sendelbach in particular was able to take advantage.
"Some teams are going to not let Tyler Tyree and our running game beat them and they're going to put as many people as they can in the box," Nutter said. "When that happens we have to make plays. We dropped some and we threw some bad ones, but when we're clicking, I don't think teams can play man on us."
Besides the key third-down grab, Sendelbach also had a 24-yard reception in what became the game-winning drive. Then, after H-L regained control, he had a 12-yard reception for another first down in the clock-killer.
"I told Logan afterward playmakers make plays and that's exactly what he did," Nutter said. "When we needed them, he made three great catches that absolutely kept drives alive."
And it was lights out on Otsego.