CARLISLE, Ia. Noah Clayberg was alright with Carlisle taking the plays.
He’ll take the points.
No. 2 Pella held off the ninth-ranked Wildcats in a Class 3-A District 7 tussle on Friday night, with Clayberg scoring when it counted for the Dutch in a physical 17-6 win.
“It was more frustrating, but I also think it was really good for me,” Clayberg said. “We didn’t score as many points as usual, but not every game is going to be a blowout.”
Pella (6-0, 4-0) cruised in its first five games of the season by an average of nearly 35 points, but Carlisle kept things close by dominating the ball and the clock in front of its bundled-up home crowd.
With Pella’s offense held scoreless and the defense holding the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1) to field goals, Clayberg stepped in.
The junior quarterback and defensive back picked up a fumble off a sack and ran it 32 yards for a touchdown before halftime, negating Carlisle’s 41 offensive plays and red zone visits.
“We knew Pella would be the best defensive club we’ve seen,” Carlisle coach Mark Hoekstra said. “We did move the ball some, but you’ve got to put it in the end zone. When we got it down there, they wouldn’t let us in.”
The Dutch had just 45 yards of offense before the break, but held a 7-6 advantage.
“At halftime we had to learn how to elevate our play,” Pella coach Jay McKinstrey said. “They kind of took it to us to some degree and they were more physical than we were.”
The second half hardly flipped the script, as Clayberg finished with just one complete pass for one yard and the Wildcats continued aggressively gang-tackling.
But Carlisle’s offense and running back Ty Erb slowed in the face of a biting wind and Pella’s defensive front.
Erb had 28 carries for 75 yards, but just 10 of those yards came after halftime.
“Every play, we had the mindset of a brick wall,” Clayberg said.
With the score 10-6 and Carlisle still threatening to pull off the late upset, Clayberg stood up again.
He snagged the momentum-killing interception and long return — which was pulled out of the end zone following a penalty — and rushed in the game-winner from 17 yards with 2:01 remaining.
“Noah certainly puts the team on his shoulders sometimes,” McKinstrey said. “It was a night where he was on the field a lot and did some great things.”
Both teams played their lowest scoring games of the season and Pella was held nearly 100 yards under its rushing average.
The Wildcats gave the Dutch their best shot, but Clayberg and company found a way to counter.
“Pella is good and we knew they were good,” Hoekstra said. “Nobody has really stopped them. We had some opportunities and when you’re playing a team like this, you have to capitalize.
“It was just a good football game. And the few turning points there were went their way.”
Pella travels to No. 10 Newton for another marquee District 7 game next week.
Carlisle running back Ty Erb (1) stiff-arms Pella’s Payson Vande Lune during a high school football game at Carlisle High School Friday, October 3, 2014.
C—FG Fuentes 26
P—Clayberg 32 fumble return (Johnson kick)
C—FG Fuentes 22
P—FG Johnson 25
P—Clayberg 17 run (Johnson kick)
Rushing—Pella: Murphy 7-75, Clayberg 21-57, Henry 13-55; Carlisle: Erb 28-75, McMullen 6-36.
Passing—Pella: Clayberg 1-8-0-1 ; Carlisle: Pierce 9-24-2-130.
Receiving—Pella Dutch: Warner 1-1; Carlisle Wildcats: Sanders 2-43, Robertson 2-41, Smith 2-33.