For the past year, Mitch Wieland has played this year’s Battle for the Boot over and over and over in his head.
Even with all the hours Wieland spent visualizing the game, the City High senior had to admit he never imagined an ending like this.
Wieland knocked away a Nate Boland pass in the end zone on the game’s final play as City High survived for a wild 14-7 win over West High in the Battle for the Boot on Friday at Bates Field.
The win comes one year after West High snapped City High’s seven-year winning streak in the annual series with a 44-0 victory.
“I’ve thought about this a lot, ever since last year’s game,” Wieland said. “I’m not quite sure I ever thought it would end like this, but it feels amazing.”
Xavier Washpun ran for 111 yards and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 14-yard run with 3:18 left in the game as Class 4A No. 10 City High improved to 6-1 on the season.
West, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in 4A dropped to 6-1 with the loss.
“If you would have told me that we were only going to score 14 points I would have thought, ‘Oh, man,’ ” City High coach Dan Sabers said. “But you never know that’s why they play the games.”
A week after coming from behind to beat Dubuque Hempstead in the final 48 seconds, West almost did it again Friday.
The Trojans put together a 15-play drive over the final 3:05 and had a first and goal at the City High 1-yard line with 5.5 seconds to play.
Boland rolled to his right and with no room to run threw across his body to the end zone, but Wieland was there to get his hand on the ball to preserve the win and set off a wild City High celebration.
“Obviously, we had to try to contain Nate,” Wieland said. “We knew that he was going to try to make a play and he almost did. “When that ball went up in the air, I knew it was mine. That was my mentality.”
City High took advantage of some good field position to take an early 7-0 lead on its first offensive possession of the game.
After forcing West High to go three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, City High took over at the West High 32-yard line following a 7-yard West High punt.
The Little Hawks went 32 yards in seven plays, all runs, and took the 7-0 lead on a 7-yard touchdown run by senior Wieland less than five minutes into the game.
West wasted no time answering back on its ensuing possession with an 11-play, 67-yard drive that was capped by fullback Micah Kelsay’s 4-yard scoring plunge.
The Trojans were 2-for-2 on third drive on the scoring drive as Boland converted a pair of third-and-longs with completions to wide outs Anthony Batie and Oliver Martin.
City High twice drove deep into West High territory in the second quarter but came up empty both times.
The Little Hawks failed on a fourth-and-three at the West High 20-yard line with 10:31 left in the second quarter and again failed to convert on a fourth-and-six from the Trojan 26-yard line with 43 seconds left before halftime.
West nearly took a lead into the break at halftime as the Trojans marched 60 yards to the City High 19-yard line in just 37 seconds but Connor Gordon’s 36-yard field goal with 5.8 seconds left missed wide right.
City High again had chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter, driving into West High territory twice but again coming up empty.
The Little Hawks missed a 37-yard field goal with 11:05 left in the game.
Then following a three-and-out by the West High offense, City had the ball at the West 16 but lost a fumble on the quarterback running back exchange.
“You do start to wonder if maybe we let it get away,” Sabers said of the missed opportunities. “I told the kids, ’48 minutes, it’s going to be a battle.’ I said, ‘Just keep battling,’ and that’s what they did.”
Wieland turned in the first off his two huge defensive plays on the drive following City High’s lost fumble when he recovered a fumble by West’s Kelsay to give the Little Hawks the ball at the West 32-yard line.
“He didn’t have a great night throwing, and he’s going to be the first one to admit that,” Sabers said of Wieland. “But, boy, did he hang in there and make some plays, and that’s what you ask of kids.”
City High covered the 32 yards on seven plays following the fumble, the last 14 coming courtesy of Washpun’s first score of the game.
The senior running back had been held to just 97 yards on 26 carries before the 14-yard game-winner.
“I felt like the whole game I was going to keep getting tough yards, and I was getting so close to breaking a long run,” Washpun said. “I knew I was going to get one at the end of the game.”
West didn’t go down without a fight, mounting its best drive of the game and had first and goal at the City High 1 before a false start penalty brought the ball back out to the 6-yard line for the final play.
Boland connected with Anthony Batie for gains of 29 and 12 yards on the drive, but his final pass intended for Batie came up incomplete thanks to Wieland and the City High defense.
Boland finished with 258 yards of total offense, running for a game-high 147 yards and throwing for 111 more.
“I told our guys at halftime we made (Boland) run a lot the first half, and there is only so much energy people have got so we were going to make him run some more,” Sabers said. “Our secondary was great all game.”
C – Mitch Wieland 7 run (Drew Cornwell kick)
W – Micah Kelsay 4 run (Connor Gordon kick)
C – Xavier Washpun 14 run (Drew Cornwell kick)
|Total Nets Yards||351||291|
RUSHING – West High: Devin Raffensperger 5-15, Nate Boland 17-147, Micah Kelsay 15-78. City High: Xavier Washpun 27-111, Mitch Wieland 11-40, Bryson Runge 5-27, Jake Leohr 6-25, Ivan Diaz 3-33.
PASSING – West High: Nate Boland 8-15-0 111. City High: Mitch Wieland 3-8-0 38, Leohr 1-1-0 17.
RECEIVING – West High: Anthony Batie 6-83, Oliver Martin 1-12, Tyler Eads 1-16. City High: Jake Leohr 1-26, Xavier Washpun 2-24, Ivan Diaz 1-5.