For the second time this season an injury forced City High quarterback Nate Wieland to exit a game early in the first quarter.
Thankfully for the Little Hawks they still had guys like Jason Jones and Jared Taylor on Friday night.
Getting a healthy Bryce Frantz back didn’t hurt either.
Taylor threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns in relief of Wieland, connecting with Jones for a pair of touchdown passes, as City High rallied for a 35-17 win over Ottumwa (3-2) on Friday in the district opener for both teams at Frank Bates Field.
Jones caught eight passes for 161 yards, including a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown with 6:38 left as City High improved to 3-2 with its third straight win.
“I have confidence in Jared, he got reps at practice this week and he’s been working hard,” Jones said. “We were down some when Nate went out, but we knew Jared would step up and get us to where we needed to go.”
Frantz added 105 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in his first action since Week 1 as City High finished with 336 yards of total offense.
Frantz’s 2-yard touchdown run with 2:21 left sealed the win for City High, which improved to 1-0 in Class 4A District 6 play and avenged a 34-0 loss to the Bulldogs last season in Ottumwa.
“I feel like we have a lot of pieces of this puzzle,” Frantz said. “When we get it all put together we are going to be a heck of a team.”
Things started ominously for the Little Hawks.
Wieland was injured on the third play from scrimmage while being tackled for no gain and was carted off the field.
The junior was injured in City High’s season-opening loss to Cedar Falls and missed two games before starting last week.
Taylor replaced Wieland and immediately led an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 21-yard scoring strike on a quick slant to senior Dylan Leigh.
“I just know that I have to stay ready, I hate to see Nate go down, he is one of my friends, but I have to be ready to go out and lead this team,” Taylor said. “That first drive was huge. It was a really nice play by Dylan and it was a big confidence-booster for sure.”
Ottumwa answered with a touchdown when Brad Bramschreiber recovered an Isaiah Cox fumble in the end zone with 6:50 left in the first half.
Taylor and the Little Hawks came right back with a 10-play, 61-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jones.
Jones hauled in the two-point conversion pass to give City High a 14-7 lead.
“He’s special,” Sabers said of Jones. “You get it anywhere close to him and he is going to catch it.”
Ottumwa rattled off 10 straight points, taking a 17-14 lead on a 12-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to open the second half.
A 3-yard run by Cox capped the drive and gave the Bulldogs the lead with 7:02 left in the third quarter.
It stayed that way until late in the fourth quarter, when Taylor and Jones hooked up for the second time.
On the first play following an Ottumwa punt, Taylor hit a streaking Jones in stride down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown pass that put City High on top 21-17 with 6:38 left.
“We were hoping to get the running game going again because we had some success the first half and they rose up and stopped us,” Sabers said. “We figured, ‘let’s not go out of this game without going to our guy.’ ”
City High held Ottumwa to eight yards of offense on its final three possessions and added a 2-yard touchdown run by Frantz to take a 28-17 lead with 2:21 left.
Vance Dillon capped the scoring with a 70-yard interception return.
“We wanted to come out and show that we can step up and play any team,” Jones said. “We stepped it up the second half and now we have to keep moving forward.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or rmurken @press-citizen.com and follow him on twitter at @rmmurken.
City…6 8 0 21—35
Ottumwa…0 10 7 0—17
ICH—Leigh 21 pass from Taylor (kick failed)
OTT—Bramschreiber fumble recovery in endzone (Brumbaugh kick)
ICH—Jones 11 pass from Taylor (Jones pass from Taylor)
OTT—Brumbaugh 20 field goal
OTT—Cox 3 run (Brumbaugh kick)
ICH—Jones 60 pass from Taylor (Rukakiza kick)
ICH—Bryce Frantz 2 run (Rukakiza kick)
ICH—Vance Dillon 70 interception return (Sarrive Rukakiza kick)
RUSHING—City High: Bryce Frantz 17-105, Rojay Rodney 8-25, Jared Taylor 4-(-7) Jason Jones 1-4, Nate Wieland 1-0, Team 2-(-11). Ottumwa: Isaiah Cox 19-60, Sam Moreland 18-80, Isaiah Hutchinson 7-8, Team 1-(-6).
PASSING—City High: Jared Taylor 10-16-0 200, Nate Wieland 1-1-0 20. Ottumwa: Sam Moreland 8-24-1 166.
RECEIVING—City High: Jason Jones 8-161, Naeem Smith 1-22, Dylan Leigh 1-21, Bryce Frantz 1-16. Ottumwa: Jalen Strunk 4-93, Isaiah Cox 1-6, Brad Bramschreiber 1-13, Matt Moreland 1-9, Roberton Rodriguez 1-45.