Sam Kuhter and Kyle Stephenson combined to score all five touchdowns for a South Tama football team that needed a signature win this season.
STC's senior quarterback and running back duo boosted the Trojans past No. 5-ranked and previously unbeaten Boone in their second-to-last home game this fall. The Trojans (6-1) defeated Boone (6-1) 37-14 with an explosive offensive first half and defensive turnovers in the second half.
"Last week's second half was huge to give us the momentum to get here," coach Jay Hoskey said. "We took the next step here tonight. These kids believe in themselves. They believe they can beat anybody. There might be some teams out there that might be a little deeper than us, but the guys we put out on the field at any one time are gutsy. There's no giving up out there."
South Tama senior Sam Kuhter runs for a 20-yard touchdown run during the first half of Friday's game. Kuhter rushed for two touchdowns and threw another as STC beat Boone 37-14.
South Tama improved its district record to 4-1 with Friday's win. Grinnell leads the district with a 4-0 (7-0) record, with STC and Boone tied for second. The STC players and coaches are hoping Friday's victory will help them finish first or second finish in the district, which would give a home game for the opening round of playoffs.
"It's crazy," Stephenson said. "This puts us in the second spot in our district. It's so much easier from here. It's hard to put it into words."
Stephenson officially locked up the South Tama victory with 52 seconds remaining in the contest. The senior Trojan intercepted a Boone pass and returned it 73 yards for the touchdown. He had one Boone player to beat before out running the rest of the Toreadors to the end zone.
"I was kind of lucky that it just plopped right to me," Stephenson said. "I pretty much had to beat one guy into the end zone."
Stephenson broke another big play to give South Tama a quick touchdown and confidence in the first quarter. After STC stopped Boone's offensive attack, Stephenson ran 95 yards for a touchdown after out running the Boone defense for 80 yards.
"No one even touched me," Stephenson said. "It's pretty much just run, look at the end zone and don't stop."
Stephenson rushed the ball for 226 yards 152 on the first half on Friday night. However, it was his quarterback who scored South Tama's next two touchdowns. Kuhter carried around the right end and broke free for an 86-yard touchdown dash, giving STC a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.
"That one was even crazier than Kyle's run," Kuhter said. "It was a play we've run before this season. I faked it, pulled it out and all I saw was one guy falling inside, so I took off. All I heard was Kyle screaming, 'go, go, go!' I took off and high-stepped as one guy dove for my ankles. It was a long run. I was tired."
Kuhter's second touchdown came 3:38 before halftime. His 20-yard run capped off a 16-yard, 83-yard drive. Kuhter connected with Stephenson on STC' final possession of the half. Facing a fourth-down-and-27 from the Boone 37 yard line, Kuhter scrambled and threw a hail mary to the end zone. Stephenson snuck in behind Boone's secondary and caught ball, before running four yards for the touchdown.
"That's what can happen when you have a couple of kids who can make big plays," Hoskey said. "Stephenson is an outstanding player. If he's not an all-stater, I'll eat my shorts. There's no doubt about it, he should be a first-team all-state player. Then you have a kid in Sam, who makes big plays with his feet, too."
South Tama ended its second half scoring drought late in the fourth quarter to nearly lock up the game. STC picked up its third and final first down with less than four minutes on a seven-yard run from Kuhter. Four plays later, senior Jose Fonseca kicked a 20-yard field goal that gave STC a 30-14 lead.
Although the Trojans offense struggled in the second half, their defense maintained a bend-but-don't-break mentality. They gave up a 92-yard touchdown drive on Boone's first possession of the second half, but that was all they gave up after halftime.
South Tama stopped a long Boone drive that ended on a fourth-down attempt deep in STC territory. Boone drove down the field again after an STC three-and-out. A Boone pass into the end zone was intercepted by a leaping senior Clay Waterbury.
"He's one of the best kids around," Hoskey said of Waterbury. "Clay is a great kid. He went up and made an athletic play that saved our defense."
Stopping Boone in the red zone became a theme of the first half and helped give the Trojans momentum and confidence. Boone took the opening possession of the contest and moved 61 yards on 10 plays before it was stopped on a fourth-down pass attempt, which was tipped by two STC players.
South Tama stopped Boone on its 5 yard line again on its next drive. Boone drove 78 yards on 11 plays before STC senior Austin Lowe broke up its pass. Boone scored its first touchdown of the game on its next drive, but on its fourth drive of the half, STC senior Erik Lux intercepted the Toreadors, setting up another Trojans touchdown.
"Coach (Nate) Doran and coach (Dustin) Peska take care of the defense," Hoskey said. "We knew a lot of the things they were going to run, but the kids played. The kids made some plays in there. Maybe condensing everything down in there helps up, because they spread the ball out pretty well. They did more of that spread defense tonight than I think they have all season."
The Trojans play a non-district game against Benton Community (1-6) Friday in Van Horne. STC closes the regular season at home against arch-rival and fourth-ranked Grinnell in the battle for the Steve Kriegel Memorial Trophy on Oct. 19.
"We got a couple of guys banged up," Hoskey said. "We'll try to heal them up and go from there. We have to take it one week at a time, so we need to focus on Benton this week."