HUXLEY - It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Charles Dickens' introduction to "A Tale of Two Cities" describes South Tama football team's Friday night. A rocky first half found the Trojans down nine points, but they outscored Ballard by 27 in the second half.
The Trojans' second-half rally proved too much for the Bombers. South Tama improved to 5-1 on the season with the 35-17 victory in Friday night's Class 3A district football game.
South Tama senior Sam Kuhter runs free on a 35-yard touchdown run during the second half Friday night. South Tama adjusted its offense at halftime, which allowed Kuhter to run more as Ballard was keying on stopping Trojans star running back Kyle Stephenson. Kuhter and Stephenson combined to score all five touchdowns as the Trojans beat the Bombers 35-17.
"This win should help us secure a playoff berth as we improved our record to 5-1," senior Kaleb Davenport said. "We have as many wins as we've had the past two seasons. It's really nice to have those five wins."
South Tama's best of times began in the second half Friday night. STC trailed Ballard 17-8 at the break. The Bombers went three-and-out to open the half and STC started its drive near midfield. Five plays later, senior Sam Kuhter broke loose on a 34-yard touchdown run, closing the Bombers' lead to two points.
"We had convoys down there blocking," coach Jay Hoskey said. "That's neat. That shows you desire. When you get three or four or more guys that are down field 30 yards blocking on a running play, that shows they want to win."
Ballard nearly answered back with a touchdown of its own. With the ball at the Trojans' 30 yard line, Ballard threw a pass that was intercepted by STC senior Clay Waterbury and returned to the Trojans 19 yard line.
Kuhter propelled the Trojans drive with a 35-yard run on third down. Two plays later, senior Kyle Stephenson scored his second of three touchdowns. Stephenson ran through the Bombers defense on a 42-yard scoring run, giving STC a 22-17 lead.
Momentum kept rolling for South Tama. Ballard threw another interception on its third play on its ensuing drive. Senior Kaleb Davenport picked off the Bombers near midfield. Another long run by Kuhter, 36 yards to be exact, set up a third-straight STC touchdown. Stephenson ran seven yards on the next play for the score.
Two drives later, Ballard took possession of the ball on South Tama's 27 yard line after an STC punt. Davenport picked off his second pass two plays later. He gave South Tama the ball on its own 20 yard line.
"Kaleb had a very good game," Hoskey said. "That's what we expect him to be. He's kind of a ball-hawk kind of guy, because he's fast."
Davenport's interception set up the Trojans final drive of the game. They drove 80 yards in 12 plays. The drive was kept alive on fourth down by an encroachment penalty on Ballard. Kuhter finished the drive with a two-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown. It was the final score for STC as it won 35-17.
"That was a great half," Kuhter said. "That was the best half of football that South Tama has played in quite a while. It was nice to be a part of that."
When asked what changed from the first half to the second half, the STC players said the seniors talked to the team during halftime. There also might have been some yelling from assistant coach Nate Doran.
"We were sitting in the locker room when coach Doran came in there," Kuhter said. "He said, 'Seniors, you better listen up right now.' He started screaming at us, but we knew at that moment that the game was going to change and we were going to play better."
Davenport shared the same sentiment.
"We set the tone in the locker room at halftime," Davenport said. "We didn't want our season to come to an end sooner than we want, so came out and played extra hard."
South Tama's worst of times Friday night started with the opening kickoff. Ballard lined up to boot the kickoff, but instead dribbled an onside kick. The Trojans tried to pick it up, but lost the ball to the Bombers. On the following play, Ballard threw a 56-yard pass down to the Trojans 5 yard line. The Bombers scored a touchdown two plays later.
"It was surprising," Kuhter said. "We thought we'd play straight up, but they came at us with the onside kick and the big pass at the beginning. After that, we needed to refocus."
South Tama nearly recovered with its opening possession, as it moved the ball to Ballard's 28 yard line on a 14-play drive. However, the drive stalled with three-straight incomplete passes, including a fourth-down attempt.
The Bombers capitalized with a three-play, 74-yard scoring drive. They threw a 25-yard pass, ran 46 yards on one play and scored on a six-yard run, taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
South Tama almost changed the momentum late in the quarter. Ballard snapped the ball to punt, but the ball sailed over the punter's head. Ballard's punter picked up the ball, but was hit hard and fumbled. STC senior Vinny Lasley recovered the ball on Ballard's 23 yard line. Stephenson ran nine yards on the next play. Then the Trojans were called for back-to-back illegal procedure penalties and an offensive holding penalty, backing them up 20 yards. The drive stalled on fourth down.
The Trojans did score on their next drive. Stephenson broke loose on a 57-yard touchdown run. Davenport threw a pass to senior Levi Kaufman to convert the two-point play. Ballard added a 27-yard field goal right before halftime to lead 17-8 at the break.
"It was 27-0 after halftime," Hoskey said. "The kids played so hard, but they didn't give up. They didn't play well in the first half, but I told them, 'We got 'em right where we want 'em.' We gave them about everything possible. Two guys almost had an interception, but we bobble it and they catch it and get that late field goal. In the second half, we just plays. Sam and Kyle mad some plays."
"The linemen started blocking," Hoskey said. "They came out in a way different defense than what they had shown all year. We were unprepared for it and it caused us some problems, so we had to figure out what was going on. Thanks to coach (Mike) Stein, who works with us in the press box, and coaches (Nathan) Van Dyke and (Scott) Bolen. They helped us see some things, so we went into half and figured out what we could do. It was just minor things with our blocking."
South Tama will be back at home this week. The Trojans will host Boone (6-0) on Friday night. Kickoff should be around 7:30 p.m., after the freshman game.
"We have a bit of a family feud going on, because my cousin is the kicker for Boone," Davenport said. "It should be extra special for me. We are hoping to get the win and improve to 6-1."