West Des Moines, Ia. — Dowling Catholic senior Alex Kramer wandered around the playing surface Friday night wearing a smile every bit as bright as the Valley Stadium lights above.
The defensive lineman took a peek at the scoreboard at one end of the field and smiled some more: Dowling 27, Valley 7.
Victory by itself would’ve been enough to satisfy Kramer. But a three-touchdown margin, a second-half handcuffing of the Tigers offense and a physical mauling on both sides of the ball left Kramer and the Maroon linemen beaming.
“Our mindset was to be physical — as physical as we could,” Kramer said. “We knew they were going to hit us in the mouth and if we could hit them right back, hopefully their run game would slow down.”
After all the punches were thrown, the fifth-ranked Maroons were the last ones standing.
Dowling scored three second-half touchdowns, outgained the No. 1 Tigers 304-75 after halftime and snapped Valley’s 16-game winning streak. The Tigers hadn’t lost since the second round of the 2010 playoffs when Dowling disposed of Valley on its way to the state championship.
“I actually think this loss, in the big picture, is going to be good for us,” Valley offensive tackle Jake Campos said. “We had guys coming out here thinking we’re Valley, we’re going to win every game. We’re going to take this, we’re going to lick our wounds and we’re going to come back. This is going to humble us and we’re going to start working harder than we have.”
Valley coach Gary Swenson said overconfidence wasn’t the problem for the Tigers (2-1). The issue was at the line of scrimmage where Valley had struggled to run the football during its first two games and the Maroons (3-0) exacerbated the hot spot for the Tigers.
Dowling limited Valley to 87 yards rushing – nearly half of which came on scrambles by quarterback Tanner Stine, whose 45 yards on the ground led his team. The Maroons limited Valley running back Tyus Mason to 38 yards on 12 carries before he hobbled off the field on the second play of the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury.
The Tigers relied on Stine’s passing. The senior completed 13 of his 27 attempts for 165 yards and a touchdown, but Valley became one-dimensional in the second half.
“We talked before the game that blocking and tackling is what was going to win the game,” Swenson said. “Clearly, we were ineffective up front offensively. We’ve struggling and when you play a good front like theirs, they exposed those things. If you can’t ever run the ball over a four-quarter game, eventually your opponent will.”
And the Maroons did.
Dowling’s Chase Dowell scored on a 5-yard run midway through the third quarter to put the Maroons ahead 14-7. Later in the quarter, Nate Christian, who led Dowling with 12 carries for 130 yards, broke loose on an 84-yard touchdown burst.
“I was just thinking turn on the jets and let everything go, let the adrenaline rush and see how far I can get,” said Christian, who used a key block from receiver Matthew Haack to race the last 25 yards into the end zone. “(Haack’s block) was a little bit behind me, but I heard it was great.”
Haack tacked on Dowling’s last touchdown, taking a short pass from Ryan Boyle and sprinting 73 yards for a score.
It was Dowling’s third victory in three tries against a top-10 opponent this season.
“It’s early and we’ll see them again, that’s for sure,” Dowling linebacker Jake Lewton said. “These games don’t even matter, they’re divisional games, but it’s good to get that win.”
They don’t matter?
“Well, they matter,” Lewton said. “(They matter for) west-side pride. This is the biggest rivalry in the state of Iowa.”
Dowling Catholic 7 0 13 7 — 27
Valley 7 0 0 0 — 7
D – Wisnieski 4 pass from Boyle (McLellan kick)
V – Hinkle 31 pass from Stine (Langer kick)
D – Dowell 5 run (McLellan kick)
D – Christian 84 run (kick failed)
D – Haack 73 pass from Boyle (McLellan kick)
Rushing– Dowling: Christian 12-130; Valley: Stine 12-45.
Passing– Dowling: Boyle 5-10-0-141; Valley: Stine: 13-27-0-165.
Receiving–Dowling: Haack 4-137; Valley: Hinkle 6-60.