A pair of possessions to begin the second half were enough to give South Tama the advantage in Friday's season opening football contest.
The two drives consumed 10 minutes of the 12-minute third quarter. After they were completed, South Tama led 16-0 with 14 minutes remaining in the contest. The Trojans went on to defeat Nevada 16-6, starting the season with a win at home.
"It's great, especially after last year when we ended our season on a six-game losing streak," senior quarterback Sam Kuhter said of winning the opening game. "So it's really nice to get the first one this year. I think everybody is ready for next week already. We want to get this season rolling."
South Tama senior Kaleb Davenport (No. 23) jumps over two players after intercepting a Nevada pass during the first half Friday. The Cubs’ pass deflected off of their wide receiver’s hands and into Davenport’s grasp. STC took advantage of three Nevada turnovers during its 16-6 season-opening win.
Holding on to a 10-0 lead at halftime, South Tama came out of the locker room and increased its advantage. Senior Kyle Stephenson took the second-half kickoff to midfield. Then the Trojans drove 51 yards in nine plays, all of which were running plays.
Kuhter and Stephenson ran for 26 and 24 yards, respectively, on the drive. Senior Daryl Bidwell finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
"We were able to take the ball down the field on the first drive in the second half and that was big," coach Jay Hoskey said. "It was nice to get that touchdown right away. It would have been nice to keep them out of the end zone at the end, but you can't always get what you want."
Just when the Trojans seemed to be in control of the game, the Cubs marched down the field on the following drive. Nevada moved the ball 69 yards in 15 yards. However, the drive was stuffed by the Trojans' defense.
Nevada had a first down at the STC 19 yard line. After two incomplete passes, Nevada's Patrick Stephenson ran nine yards. Nevada went for it on fourth down, but the Trojans' defense stopped the Nevada runner at the line of scrimmage.
The game almost turned the wrong way for STC two drives later. After both teams traded punts, Kuhter fumbled after an 11-yard run and it was recovered by the Cubs. STC senior Clay Waterbury helped his teammate on the next play.
Nevada completed a pass for 20 yards on first down alongside the opposing sideline. Waterbury hit the Cubs' receiver and forced a fumble, which was recovered by STC senior Levi Kaufman.
"A lot of people thought these guys weren't going to be as good as they are," Kuhter said. "We knew it was going to be a dogfight, because we played them in middle school and split with them in seventh and eighth grade. Plus, we knew they played a game last week and put up 45 points. So, we knew it would be a dogfight tonight."
South Tama was on the positive side of two additional turnovers late in the first half. Sophomore Ian Slagle stood up out of a pile with a football after a Nevada fumble in STC territory. Three plays later, South Tama punted the ball back to the Cubs and it was downed on their 2 yard line. Nine plays later, the Cubs threw a pass that was tipped by their wide receiver and into the hands of STC senior Kaleb Davenport, who returned the ball 15 yards.
"I thought Kaleb played a pretty good game when he was in there," Hoskey said. "He did a good job returning punts and that put us in good field position. He got that interception. He has some good speed and he does a good job as a safety for us."
Davenport set up the Trojans for their first touchdown of the game. He returned Nevada's second punt of the game 25 yards to the Cubs' 15 yard line. Kuhter scored a touchdown on the next play on the ground.
"It's a veer left and coach says, 'if you see the outside number of the defensive end, take it,'" Kuhter said. "I put it in Kyle's stomach and I saw the outside numbers, so I pulled it out. It seemed like everyone thought Kyle had the ball, so they paused before I made my move to the outside. Then I sprinted toward the end zone. That's a good play for us."
STC senior Jose Fonseca converted a 25-yard field goal at the beginning of the second quarter for the Trojans' other score Friday.
Like most coaches after an season-opening win, Hoskey was happy his team came out victorious but knows it has much to improve to reach its goals for the seasons.
"The important thing is we got the 'w'," Hoskey said. "It was a little ugly. I guess you could say that we got the win, but the team we played, they played very well. Nevada executed well and maybe out executed us. This was their second game and that probably helped them a little bit. You can practice all you want, but the best practice is a game.
"We'll look at the film," Hoskey said. "Obviously, there are some things that we have to work on. I think we're going to shore up blocking. We're also going to have to execute and make better decisions."
South Tama will travel to Vinton-Shellsburg, who beat Benton 48-0 in its opener, this week. The game begins at 7 p.m. Friday in Vinton.
"We have to get better for next week," Hoskey said. "Next week, we'll probably see a more physical team and not as much of a finesse team. We will need to be able to execute a bit better and maybe put in a wrinkle or two to take advantage of some things."