The West High football team had been in this situation before.
The Trojans practice the two minute drill every day.
During the regular season, the Trojans had three game-winning or tying fourth-quarter drives.
Yet what West pulled off in the final minutes Monday in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs was a drive for the ages.
A 93-yard masterpiece that has already become known around West simply as “The Drive.”
On the road, in a driving rain against the No. 6 team in the state, in an elimination playoff game, West marched 93 yards in 1:54, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 8-yard run by Yeshuwa Hicks with 25 seconds left in a wild 38-34 win over Linn-Mar.
“We hadn’t been put in that exact situation yet, but we’ve been in situations with our backs against the wall all year,” West coach Garret Hartwig said of the circumstances surrounding the final drive. “We had to be able to execute or our season was over, and the credit goes to our players. They stepped up.”
West took over at its own 7-yard line with 2:19 left.
Three plays later, the Trojans faced a fourth-and-8 from their own 9-yard line.
“I’ve never done that,” Hartwig said of going for it from his own 9-yard line. “But it worked out.”
Senior quarterback Aaron Bleil hit Tyler Eads for 12 yards to keep the drive and game alive.
Bleil then hit Eads for 18 more yards, and two plays later hooked up with Oliver Martin for 21-yards on a third-and-10.
A 20-yard pass to Eads moved the ball to the Linn-Mar 8-yard line, where Hicks took it in for the game-winner.
“We told the guys we practice this every day in practice,” Hartwig said. “The two-minute drill is just something that we do, and it was another two-minute situation and we had to execute.”
The drive was the third game-winning drive in the fourth quarter for Bleil and the Trojans this season.
Bleil threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Gabe Huinker with 1:59 left in the season-opening win over Kennedy.
The senior orchestrated an 87-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown drive to beat Davenport Central and helped the Trojans erase a 17-point deficit in the final four minutes to force overtime against top-ranked Bettendorf.
“Being put in those situations all year, I’ll never say that a two-minute drill is second nature, but it’s not something that we are unfamiliar with,” Hartwig said. “The reps and the experience came through in the biggest way possible (Monday) night.”
Bleil finished 21-of-36 for a career-high 357 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
Eads caught six passes for 156 yards, while Martin had seven receptions for 79 yards.
All three players came up with huge plays down the stretch as West erased an 11-point deficit in the final five-and-a-half minutes.
“Those past experiences help the players and they even help us as coaches,” Hartwig said. “We understand what we need to execute, and coach (offensive coordinator Andrew) Durham knows what he feels like he needs to call and the players are coached to get out of bounds.
• STRONG STARTERS: Regina has cruised to the Class 1A quarterfinals, outscoring its first two playoff opponents by a combined total of 123-20. The Regals have been even more impressive early. In its first two playoff games, Regina has outscored opponents 89-0 in the first half, including a 47-0 advantage in the opening quarter.
• 2,000 YARD CLUB: West Branch tailback Luke Lenoch wrapped up an impressive sophomore season with 133 yards on 24 carries in a 35-18 loss to Dike-New Hartford on Monday. With his 133-yard effort, Lenoch cracked the 2,000-yard mark for the season, finishing with 2,105 yards and 30 touchdowns on 235 carries.
• OFFENSIVE PERFORMER OF THE 2ND ROUND: Bleil, Eads, Oliver and Hicks all deserve the honor as West rolled up 521 yards of offense in its 38-34 win over Linn-Mar. Bleil and the receivers were great as was Hicks, who ran for a career-high 153 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
• RUNNER-UP: Drew Cook continued his torrid offensive pace, completing 7-of-10 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown as Regina topped the 50-point mark for the third straight week and fifth time this season.
Cook also ran for a touchdown in Regina’s 57-13 win over Panorama.
• DEFENSIVE PERFORMER OF THE 2ND ROUND: Regina junior linebacker Justin Hunter had four tackles, including three solo stops, and an interception in the Regals’ 57-13 win.
• RUNNER-UP: Conner Greene and his West defensive mates gave up some points and some yards to Linn-Mar, but came up with a key stop late in the game when they needed it most.
Greene had 4.5 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and half of a sack in the win.
Reach Ryan Murken at 339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.