Brian Sauser and the rest of his West High coaching staff try not to get too worked up over the course of a game.
Over the past several weeks, that has been a tough chore for Sauser and his staff.
Friday night, Sauser finally had to admit it was downright impossible.
Class 4A No. 3 West overcame a 12-point second half deficit and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard run by Micah Kelsay with 8 seconds left to escape with a wild 39-35 win over Dubuque Hempstead.
“Tonight is a little bit different,” Sauser said of trying to stay calm. “It is never over until it’s over, but it does creep into your mind like, ‘Man, oh man, are we really going to get beat?’ So for our guys to pull it out of the fire like that is incredible.”
West trailed 35-32 after Hempstead tailback Matt Zenner scored his third touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run with 48 seconds to play.
However, the Trojans responded with a game-saving six-play, 80-yard drive that took just 41 seconds and was capped by Kelsay’s 3-yard scoring dive with 8 seconds left.
“You just have to give a lot of credit to our kids,” Sauser said. “The chips were down again, but they keep finding a way.”
West led 17-14 at halftime before Dubuque Hempstead opened the second half with back-to-back touchdown drives to take a 29-17 lead.
West responded with 15 unanswered points of its own as Kelsay cut the lead to 29-25 with a 22-yard touchdown run and Nate Boland followed with a 10-yard scoring run that gave the Trojans a 32-29 lead with 4:03 left.
That’s when things got wild.
Hempstead mounted a 12-play, 61-yard drive that included a 21-yard pass play on a fourth-and-13 and appeared to score the game-winning touchdown when Zenner scored from 9 yards out with 48 seconds left.
Zenner, a 170-pound junior tailback, gave the Trojans fits all night, finishing with 262 yards on 27 carries.
“Our kids battled back, that was the third-ranked team in the state, and you lose 39-35 in the final minute,” Hempstead coach Doug Spahn said. “It was a heck of a game by our kids. They battle to the end; we just came up a play short, ran out of time. Proud of the effort of our kids. Iowa City West is a good football team.”
Trailing 35-32, West handed the keys to senior quarterback Nate Boland, who completed two passes on the game-winning drive, including a 49-yard strike to Tyler Eads that set the Trojans up at the Hempstead 15 yard line.
Bolan finished an efficient 7-of-12 through the air for 168 yards and also ran for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns as West had three players with more than 100 yards rushing.
“With 49 seconds left, Boland just said, ‘Give me the ball,’ and he went out and made some plays,” Sauser said. “It was just an incredible effort by our kids. Tonight is about our kids never saying die, just playing until all the zeros are up there like you tell them to.”
Kelsay finished with 102 yards on 16 carries, and tailback Devin Raffensperger added 152 yards on 18 carries as West ran for 423 yards on its way to 591 yards of total offense.
With the win, West now can turn its attention to Friday’s crosstown matchup with City High in the annual Battle for the Boot.
“It’s a big one,” Sauser said. “We’ve played tough games for six straight weeks. It’s nice to finally be able to talk about the Boot game and not always caution our guys about looking ahead.”
W – Connor Gordon kick 21 FG.
DH – Julian Runde 1 run (Chris Francis kick).
W – Micah Kelsay 1 run (Gordon kick).
DH – Jacob Harrison 33 run (Francis kick).
W – Nate Boland 12 run (Gordon kick).
DH – Matt Zenner 13 run (Zebarth pass from Francis).
DH – Zenner 29 run (Francis kick).
W – Kelsay 22 run (Boland run).
W – Boland 10 run (Gordon kick).
DH – Zenner 9 run (Kick failed).
W – Kelsay 3 run (Gordon kick).
|Total Nets Yards||404||591|
RUSHING – Dubuque Hempstead: Matt Zenner 27-262, Jacob Harrison 9-73, Julian Runde 11-(-15), Carter Daack 2-13, Andrew Wolhoy 1-15, Team 1-(-2). West High: Devin Raffensperger 18-152, Nate Boland 18-129, Micah Kelsay 16-102, Kevin Dowell 2-16, Anthony Batie 3-24
PASSING – Dubuque Hempstead: Julian Runde 5-16-1 58. West High: Nate Boland 7-12-1 168.
RECEIVING – Dubuque Hempstead: Chase Bushaw 1-21, Jacob Harrison 1-19, Andrew Wolhoy 1-16, Evan Kolker 1-5, Matt Zenner 1-(-3). West High: Tyler Eads 3-80, Anthony Batie 2-70, Oliver Martin 1-15, Micah Kelsay 1-6, Devin Raffensperger 1-(-3).