For the second straight year, the kicking game played a decisive role in the Class 3A district game between South Tama County and Newton.
On Friday, both teams missed PAT attempts, but only Newton was able to convert a two-point try. However, a late field goal attempt by South Tama sealed the game for the visiting Cardinals.
A year ago, South Tama missed a PAT during its road contest at Newton. That one point was the difference in Newton's 28-27 victory, which ended South Tama's unbeaten season.
South Tama junior Ian Slagle, left, pats sophomore Jerry Lowe (No. 43) on the head after the running back broke a 45-yard touchdown run. STC senior Tristan Beyer, right, also celebrated Lowe’s touchdown.
Friday night's game of momentum changes and runs came down to a short field goal try during the final minute of the fourth quarter. South Tama's final drive of the game stalled out at Newton's 5 yard line. With less than 30 seconds remaining, STC junior Adrian Castanon attempted a 22-yard field goal, but the kick sailed right. Newton (2-2) beat South Tama (1-3) 22-19.
"I feel bad for our kids," STC coach Jay Hoskey said. "They came out and got down 13 and then found the resolve in themselves to get it going. We got that touchdown before halftime and then we put a couple on the board in the third quarter on a couple big plays. In a game like that, there are dozens of things that make a little bit of difference that we wish we would have done.
"What I do feel good about is that was one heck of a lot better effort than what we had last week," he added. "We played the whole game. Even when things didn't look good in the beginning, we made the adjustments to get better. Coach Doran did a really good job defensively, making a change after we couldn't get a stop. We changed the defense around. We shut them down pretty well until they had a short field late in the game."
South Tama forced a Newton punt near midfield with 1:35 remaining in the game. A personal foul on the Cardinals gave STC 15 more yards and possession on its own 21 yard line, trailing by three points.
Junior Dalton Doyle connected with junior Bo Blocker on three passes for 72 yards, which included a screen pass that went for 43 yards. Blocker appeared to be headed for a touchdown on the screen pass, but he ran out of gas and was tackled at the Newton 7 yard line.
"Bo made a good move to get back across the field," Hoskey said. "I think he was just pooped, because he's a fast kid."
After a short run and two incomplete passes, STC attempted the final field goal that missed wide right.
"Adrian was trying to kick out there with a badly sprained ankle," Hoskey said. "He wasn't himself. Most of the time, he makes everything. He was struggling, but trying to play and he's the best we have.
"In retrospect, everything's there and we could have gone for it on fourth down and tried to make a touchdown," he added. "I think we have a good kicker and he makes them most of the time. We had no problems getting the kick up, but it just wasn't there. That doesn't guarantee we'll win, but it would have given ourselves a shot to go into overtime and win the game."
Castanon also missed a PAT attempt wide right during the third quarter. That miss forced the Trojans to attempt a two-point conversion, which failed, after its next touchdown.
STC sophomore Jerry Lowe helped the Trojans catch up in the second half. During the middle of the third quarter, Newton punted and gave the Trojans possession at the Newton 45 yard line. On first down, Lowe broke a run up the middle and left the Cardinals in the dust. His 45-yard touchdown run closed the Cardinal's lead to one point. The PAT was missed wide right and Newton maintained its 14-13 lead.
"We're going to keep getting Jerry the ball more and more," Hoskey said. "He's just getting better. We played him in a JV game the other night and he tore it up. He's just an extremely good athlete, but a lot of it is him just not being sure of the play calls and some of the blocking assignments. Him and Bo made a pretty good 1-2 punch. We'll try and even out those carries out as we progress in the season."
After a Newton three-and-out, South Tama's offense struck quickly again. The Trojans ran a flea flicker, where Blocker took a handoff before lateraling the ball back to Doyle, who threw the ball down field to a wide-open Dylan Kalinay. The STC senior wide receiver ran untouched into the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown pass.
"We kind of set it up," Hoskey said. "The play at Jerry ran for a touchdown was kind of the setup play, because it's an iso. Dalton put that sucker right on the time. It was perfect. Of course, Kalinay is about as fast as anybody in the open field."
Leading 19-14, South Tama attempted a two-point conversion after the touchdown. A run by Lowe was stopped by Newton.
Both teams exchanged possessions twice as they went into the fourth quarter. With 9:15 remaining, Newton began the game-winning drive. Newton drove 42 yards in seven plays and capped it off with a seven-yard touchdown pass to the right corner of the end zone. The two-point conversion run was successful, giving Newton the eventual 22-19 lead.
"We just didn't seem to get a break," Hoskey said. "(Newton) fumbled once or twice, it pops up right into a lineman's hands and he falls on it. There are several calls that could have been called. On that last drive, Martens caught a pass and it was an inch or so short of the first down."
Newton scored a pair of touchdowns on its first two offensive possession of Friday's contest. Newton drove 71 yards in nine plays, which included a fourth-down-and-seven conversion, on the first drive. Then the Cardinals marched 57 yards in 13 plays for its second drive. They converted a fourth-down-and-nine with a 19-yard pass to keep the drive alive before scoring four plays later and taking a quick 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
South Tama scored on its third offensive possession. Lowe capped off a 60-yard drive with a six-yard run for a touchdown with 1:52 remaining in the second quarter. After a sluggish start, South Tama trailed only 14-7 at halftime.
"We didn't have the ball forever," Hoskey said. "We may have ran five plays in the first quarter. Once we got going, we manufactured some plays."
Officially, the Trojans ran nine plays on the opening possession of the game. After Newton scored, Blocker fumbled the kickoff return after taking it into Newton territory. The Cardinals recovered the ball and scored again.
"He makes a great return," Hoskey said of Blocker. "From where I'm standing, it looks like the ball came out as a result of hitting the ground."
Although the Trojans are 1-3 and possibly looking at an outside shot at a playoff berth, Hoskey is hoping his players continuing playing to win.
"We are playing young," he said. "We don't have a senior in the backfield. Kalinay and (Tyler) Martens are playing well. Garrett Hoskey probably has his best game. Other than that, we're playing with a bunch of juniors and sophomores. We're going to continue to get better. The big thing for us is not to throw in the towel, because it looks like we won't make the playoffs. That's what we can't have. We have to try and win the next two games and then we'll play a couple of good teams. By that time, we can be a better team and healed up a bit. Hopefully we can right this ship and have a winning season, maybe even be in the hunt for the playoffs."
The Trojans travel Friday to Saylor to play Saydel (1-3). The Eagles beat Clarke (Osceola) 46-27 in its second game of the season.
"They won a game," Hoskey said. "They are probably thinking South Tama is 1-3 and this is our chance to get somebody that's been beating up on us for a few years. We have to have a good week of practice. We need to get better, have some fun and take it to someone next week."