When it needed defensive stops, the South Tama football team came up with the necessary plays Friday night to remain unbeaten.
The Trojans made two tackles late in the fourth quarter that saved a victory. They nearly squandered a 14-point lead twice in the game, but the Trojans narrowly beat Dallas Center-Grimes 26-24. The Trojans improved to 3-0 and 1-0 in its Class 3A District 4 opener.
"It's a win," Hoskey said. "I wasn't sure for a while, but we pulled it out.
South Tama’s defense holds up the Dallas Center-Grimes running back before he could cross the goal line on the Mustangs’ two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter Friday. That stop helped save the victory for STC, who improved to 3-0 with a 26-24 win.
"It's good to get that first district win," he added. "It puts us in a positive direction. Our first goal is to get the wins and then we want to get to the playoffs. We need the wins, one at a time, to get there."
The Dallas Center-Grimes Mustangs ended the third quarter with a touchdown. Mustangs' quarterback Andrew Kramer converted a fourth-down-and-goal into a one-yard touchdown run to pull the Mustangs within two points. Kramer's two-point conversion pass failed as STC senior Levi Kaufman broke up the pass and South Tama kept its marginal lead.
After back-to-back Mustangs' touchdowns, South Tama faced an important drive to open the fourth quarter. The drive nearly stalled after three plays, but senior Sam Kuhter converted a fourth-down quarterback sneak into a first down.
Three plays later, senior Kyle Stephenson broke free on a 41-yard touchdown run. The point-after attempt missed short and to the left, keeping the Mustangs within striking distance with a touchdown and two-point conversion.
"We made some big holes," senior Trevor Rohach said. "Ian (Slagle) was doing good and everybody was hitting their spots. We just made it happen and worked as a team."
With a 0-3 start bearing down on them, the Mustangs drove 65 yards in 14 yards and ate up 6:02 on the clock. They converted two fourth-downs and scored a touchdown on a two-yard run. A two-point conversion would tie the game, so they called a timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Mustangs kept it on the ground with their star running back, senior Alex Hansen, who rushed the ball 28 times for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns Friday. Hansen was stuffed inside the 1-yard line by the Trojans, which seemingly assured STC of the victory.
However, DCG's onside kick bounced out of the hands of an STC player and was recovered the Mustangs. They took possession of the ball on STC's 45-yard line with 2:02 remaining in the contest.
"It was scary, but I had faith in the rest of the guys," Rohach said. "I knew we could do it."
STC senior Garrett Hoskey destroyed the first play when he sacked Kramer for an eight-yard loss. Hoskey helped bring down Hansen for a two-yard loss on second down.
"Garrett came away with two big plays in a row and he was playing out of position," coach Hoskey said. "It only goes to show, that sometimes things happen accidently like that. He has a very quick two steps."
Clay Waterbury broke up the Mustangs third-down pass, forcing them into a fourth-down-and-20. Kramer's fourth-down pass was caught by senior Jake Lewis near the first-marker, but Kaufman tackled Lewis one yard short. STC ran two plays to run the clock out as it won the game.
"This wasn't as clean as we'd hoped it would be," Hoskey said. "But we got the job done. The kids got the job done. We had a lot of adversity in the game with a series of penalties and some other things. I thought we may have got the short end of some penalties, but you have to play through that and our kids know that everything is fair."
South Tama built a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. On its second drive, STC drove 61 yards in four plays. Stephenson highlighted the drive with a 42-yard touchdown run. The Trojans' star running back scored his second of three touchdowns on the next drive on a nine-yard run.
The Mustangs got on the scoreboard with a 60-yard hail mary pass on the last play of the first half. A 14-0 lead was shrunk to 14-6 in an instant and DCG was back in the contest.
"(DCG) had played two very good teams," Hoskey said. "I could tell from watching them warm-up that there is a lot of enthusiasm over there. They played the whole game and they were very hungry for a win. You keep a very hungry team in the game, you're going to have a tough game. If we wouldn't have allowed that touchdown right before half and then come back and drive for a score to start the second half, then we're running out the clock to get out of here."
STC answered on its opening drive of the second half with a five-play, 77-yard drive. Kuhter connected with senior Vinny Lasley for a 46-yard pass on the opening play and then again with Waterbury for a 27-yard touchdown pass. The Mustangs scored their second touchdown on their next drive.
"Sam made some good plays," Hoskey said. "He took care of the ball pretty well. Kyle, again, was the horse, but everybody has to contribute."
Stephenson led the Trojans' offense as he rushed the ball 28 times for 213 yards. Kuhter finished 5-for-8 passing with 101 yards. Defensively, STC was led by senior Erik Lux, who had nine tackles, including two for a loss. Rohach and Waterbury added six tackles a piece.
"This gives us a lot of momentum," Rohach said. "It's been a long time since we've done that. Our goal is to get to the dome."
South Tama will travel to Newton (0-3) this week. Newton lost 34-6 at Boone on Friday. It will be the Trojans' second 3A district game.
"The word is they are down a bit, but that's the same on these guys (DC-G)," Hoskey said of Newton. "You have to play them one at a time. Hopefully we can play a more steady game, where we avoid penalties and miscues."