TRAER - Two plays into HLV's first possession, tailback Brandon Leonard took a sweep up the right sideline, broke a couple tackles and went 16 yards for the first down.
Things went decidedly different from then on.
Brendon Boerm intercepted Bryce Kuesel's pass on the following play, and North Tama's defense did what it has done so regularly over the last three seasons. The Class A No. 2 Redhawks delivered their fourth shutout in as many victories this fall - and 18th in the last three years - for a 28-0 victory over the visiting Warriors on Homecoming night here Friday.
Number 33, Dylan Youel, runs the ball during the homecoming game, Friday, Sept. 18.
Photo by Amy Jantzen
Last year's District 6 runner-up HLV (2-2, 1-1) had as much success as any team has against North Tama this season - more, actually - but still came up empty where it counts.
North Tama's defense forced five turnovers and converted three of them into touchdowns to improve to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in district play. The Redhawks now stand as the last unbeaten and unscored upon team in the entire state of Iowa, and all of Traer was cheering for the shutout as HLV tried in vain to reach the end zone on its final possession.
"Absolutely, it's something our team prides," North Tama's first-year head coach Brent Thoren said of the shutout. "Everybody knows about it, it's a challenge for any team to do, and it's a motivational tool.
"Going over the past few years it's something that's happened quite a bit. All the former players back for Homecoming tonight understand it, it's something we take a lot of pride in."
No team in the state allowed fewer points in 2008 than North Tama, and the Redhawks remained on track to set that mark again with Friday's effort. Leonard's 16-yard gainer on HLV's first drive was the Warriors' only first down in the first half as North Tama limited them to 23 yards on 19 plays before the intermission.
North Tama converted two of HLV's three first-half turnovers into touchdowns, scoring on short fields as the Redhawks otherwise had trouble sustaining drives.
Jeremy Wrage's fumble recovery midway through the opening quarter set up the Redhawks at the HLV 14-yard line, and Brendon Boerm found Caleb Edwards with a 4-yard touchdown pass to break the scoreless tie.
Boerm's interception of a Kuesel pass at the midway point of the second quarter gave North Tama the ball at the Warrior 34, and a seven-play drive ended with Dylan Youel punching it in from 1 yard out for the 14-0 halftime lead.
HLV's deepest drive into Redhawk territory came after one of North Tama's three lost fumbles, but North Tama got it stopped again with Grant Vesely's fumble recovery. Two plays later, Boerm kept the ball on an option read and ran 66 yards to the end zone.
The Redhawks put it away for good with their longest drive of the night, an 11-play, 63-yard possession that was completed with Boerm's second touchdown pass to Edwards. This one, a 9-yard haul, made it 28-0 in favor of last year's state runner-up with 6:07 left to play.
Boerm, who went 7-for-19 passing in the first half, completed six of his seven attempts after the break and rushed for 102 of his season-high 110 yards.
Youel, who was averaging 127 yards per game going in, finished with 80 yards on 20 carries.
"It was obvious they were trying to shut Dylan down," said Thoren. "They came out with eight in the box and then they started sending a linebacker, sending everybody, I think they even sent their equipment manager once, and they did that enough to where we knew we needed to get our quarterback involved more and get our receivers involved.
"They put eight people in the box and we were getting 1-on-1 coverage on the outside, and good things can happen and we took advantage of that. We took advantage of what the defense allowed us to do."
Boerm ended up 15-for-28 passing for 122 yards with no interceptions. Colton Hamilton had three catches for 30 yards, Edwards made four grabs for 28 yards and two touchdowns, and Tyler Cizek had three catches for 23 yards. Youel added three more for 19 yards, including a 20-yard hook-and-ladder play on North Tama's second possession.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Thoren said. "They've got a tradition and they have some size, we respect them a lot. In the second half we just made a couple adjustments that led to a couple big plays.
"The defense was solid as always and it was a classic game of field position, and we were dinking and dunking until we could break a big play."
The Redhawks outgained HLV 305-127 offensively, with Kuesel completing 5-of-14 passes for 72 yards and three interceptions. James Weida picked off a pass in the Redhawk red zone during the last 4 minutes of the fourth quarter.
North Tama returns to district action next week at North English, facing an English Valleys squad (0-4, 0-2) that has yet to register a win this season.