For years, Carroll coach Dennis McCartan watched the Harlan football team continue to rise into one of the most successful programs in state history.
On Wednesday night, all eyes turned to his team.
Unranked Carroll delivered arguably the biggest upset in the first round of the state football playoffs when the visiting Tigers stunned fourth-ranked Harlan with a 28-7 win in a Class 3-A game.
The loss was the first for Harlan, which owns a state-record 12 state championships, in the opening record of the playoffs.
“We were kind of like the bridesmaids,” McCartan said. “We just never sealed the deal ourselves.”
Carroll entered the playoffs 3-6 and having lost two of its final three regular-season games. Harlan came in as the perennial home-field favorite with an 8-1 record and riding a three-game win streak.
“I’m sure if there were Vegas oddsmakers out there, we weren’t getting any money for sure,” McCartan joked.
Carroll cashed in, grabbing three interceptions and holding Harlan to a season-low seven points.
The loss marked the first opening-round loss in 33 state playoff appearances for Harlan.
“All good streaks come to a close,” Harlan coach Curt Bladt said.
Carroll senior linebacker Tyler Jensen called the win the start of a new tradition for his school.
“I think they know that when they play us for years to come, that it’s not going to be a blowout,” Jensen said. “They’re certainly going to have to bring it.”
Bladt, who joked by asking if the sun had risen on Thursday morning, was impressed with how long Harlan had gone without a first-round loss. He credited his players’ hard work throughout the years. Bladt also praised his opponents.
“They’re a good football team,” Bladt said. “There’s nothing wrong with those boys. They came to play last night — no doubt about it.”
McCartan said his team’s work isn’t done yet.
“Our kids think there’s nothing they can’t do,” McCartan said.
Had it: Trev Hadachek scored five touchdowns as Union of La Porte City picked up a 63-20 win against Mount Vernon. Hadachek rushed for two touchdowns, returned a punt 70 yards for a score, brought back an interception for his fourth, and had one receiving touchdown.
Milestone night: A pair of coaches reached milestones. Fort Dodge St. Edmond coach Dick Tighe became the first Iowa high school football coach to reach 400 wins during a 41-7 win against Western Christian of Hull. West Des Moines Valley coach Gary Swenson became the 10th coach in state history to reach 300 wins.
Great Gimbel: Marshalltown’s Blake Gimbel passed for 347 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-30 win against Des Moines East. Gimbel, who completed 28-of-46 passes, also booted a 29-yard field goal.
Well Dunne: Grinnell quarterback Eli Dunne completed 21-of-33 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns during a 38-14 win against Webster City.
How the West was won: West Marshall’s Duncan Ferch accounted for four touchdowns in a 48-6 win over Red Oak. Ferch rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries. Ferch also returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score and a punt 35 yards for a touchdown. He grabbed one interception.
City pride: Sioux City Heelan’s Trenton Solsma completed 13-of-20 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns during a 47-20 win against Creston/O-M.
Star is born: Southeast Polk’s Kyle Starcevich completed 12-of-14 passes for 132 yards and four touchdowns during a 61-7 win against Mason City.
King Kinning: Johnston’s Michael Kinning threw for 402 yards and six touchdowns during a 58-55 double-overtime win over Urbandale.