VAN HORNE- Kaleb Davenport may have single-handedly won Friday's football game with one play in the first quarter.
Well, he did have some help from his teammates. The South Tama senior defensive back turned the tide and abruptly changed momentum of the game with an interception return for a touchdown. Davenport's game-changing play helped propel the Trojans (7-1) to a 49-13 victory over Benton Community (1-7).
"Our defense made some big plays and got some turnovers for us," coach Jay Hoskey said. "We turned those into points tonight."
South Tama senior Vinny Lasley (No. 9) runs past Benton defenders after catching a pass from senior Sam Kuhter during the Trojans opening drive Friday. Lasley ran down to the 2 yard line, before being pushed out of bounds. STC scored a touchdown on the next play and went on to crush Benton 49-13. Lasley also scored a touchdown after recovering a Benton fumble and returning it 57 yards to the end zone.
After each team scored touchdowns on their opening possessions of the game, South Tama was almost doomed by another onside kickoff. Benton scored, tying the game at 7-7, and on its ensuing kickoff, the squib kick bounced off of an STC player. The Bobcats recovered the ball on South Tama's 47 yard line.
Four plays later, the Bobcats were down to the STC 20 yard line. The Bobcats' pass to the end zone sailed over their wide reciever's head and into the arms of Davenport. He juked the wide receiver and sprinted up the STC sideline for a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"It was pretty exciting," Davenport said. "I was talking to my brother before the game and he told me to pick one off and return it for a touchdown. Then it happened, 101 yards."
Davenport's touchdown changed momentum of the game. Instead of Benton taking an early lead on the Trojans, he gave South Tama a 14-7 lead.
"That was big," Hoskey said. "They were in a spread formation, which we haven't seen all year. Teams seem to give us stuff we haven't seen all year. They were clicking and making some plays and they could have gone up on us. Then all of a sudden, one play is a 100-yard interception and we're ahead."
The interception return did more than give South Tama a lead. It sparked the Trojans pass defense and ignited their confidence. Benton's next offensive play after the touchdown was another interception. STC senior Levi Kaufman picked off the Bobcats and returned it to the Bobcats 35 yard line.
Senior Kyle Stephenson and Sam Kuhter combined to run 35 yards on three plays for the Trojans. Stephenson scored the second of four touchdowns on a 10-yard run, scoring the Trojans' second touchdown in 1:01.
"We started off a little rough, but we came through and got the win," Stephenson said. "The turnovers were big for us. We needed to keep them out of the end zone and we did for the most part."
Following the STC kickoff, the Bobcats threw their third interception on its third-consecutive play. Kuhter grabbed this interception and returned it 21 yards to the Bobcats 24 yard line. Three plays later, Kuhter connected on an 18-yard pass to Kaufman on third down. Stephenson scored a six-yard touchdown on the ground on the next play. STC led 28-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Stephenson continued his success on the ground on the Trojans' next possession. He capped off a 52-yard drive with his longest run of the game. His 27-yard rush put the Trojans up 35-7 with 6:04 remaining in the second quarter. He finished the game with 110 yards on 16 carries and four touchdowns.
"Kyle didn't get any big runs," Hoskey said. "He had one for 27 and a couple slightly shorter. They were stacking the box. We should have caught some passes that would have helped our running game, too."
The Trojans defense made another big play in the second half. Seniors Garrett Hoskey and Vinny Lasley ended the Bobcats' 14-play drive inside the Trojans 30 yard line. Hoskey sacked Benton's quarterback, forcing a fumble. The ball rolled back around 10 yards before Lasley scooped it up and ran 57 yards for the touchdown.
South Tama played its junior varsity players in the fourth quarter. Junior Dalton Doyle scored the final STC touchdown with 2:39 left in the game. Doyle scored on a six-yard rush. Benton added its second touchdown on the final play of the game.
"It was one of those games that was sandwiched in between two games that we have to win for the district title," Hoskey said. "(Benton) had some good players. This wasn't a situation like playing Saydel. These guys came to play. They had some horses up front and they brought the kitchen sink at us, as far as guys up front. They had about eight guys in the box against us. It's good to get out of here with a solid victory. It wasn't our best performance, but it was good enough to get the job done."
South Tama will now face rival Grinnell (8-0) for the Class 3A District 4 title on Friday night. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. at South Tama.
"We need to prepare well and practice hard," Stephenson said. "It definitely helps that it's at home, but it's also our senior night, so that makes it even bigger."