The one that got away. That's how the North Tama football team might look back on their much-anticipated quarterfinal matchup with Wapsie Valley.
What looked to be a competitive contest in the first half ended up being anything but, as the Redhawks squandered a 7-6 lead with just over a minute left in the first half, and never got close again, bowing out of the state playoffs with a 46-20 defeat last Friday night.
Second-ranked Wapsie Valley, which emerged as one of the deepest teams in Class A, had their work cut out for them as fifth-ranked North Tama looked ready to play in the earlygoing.
Above, North Tama’s Damon Spencer attempts to chase down a Wapsie Valley running back during the second half of last Friday’s 46-20 quarterfinal loss. Below, quarterback Jacob Wrage follows a block from Brent Billerbeck and Dalton Hulme. The Redhawks were eliminated from the Class A state football playoffs, ending their season at 10-2 overall.
Following a quick score on their first possession, the Redhawks recovered a fumble on the ensuing Warrior drive, and maintained their 7-6 lead until the final minute of the second quarter. That's when momentum swung - and the Redhawks wouldn't get it back the rest of the night.
A pass interference call put Wapsie Valley just outside the red zone, and they capitalized with a 10-yard touchdown run. Following two quick incompletions on offense, the Redhawks had to punt it away with 31 seconds on the clock, and the Warriors again capitalized, grabbing an 18-7 lead heading into the locker room.
After the break, Wapsie Valley used a trio of backs to wear down the North Tama defense, running away with the game both figuratively and literally - the Warriors attempted just one pass in the second half.
The Redhawks turned the ball over four times in the contest, and committed a total of seven penalties, two of which were heartbreakers: they erased would-be touchdowns.
Quarterback Jacob Wrage was slowed down by the Warrior defense through the air, but still threw for 215 yards and a touchdown. Wrage eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground, rushing for two touchdowns and 115 yards.
Brent Billerbeck caught the only TD pass of the night and had a 50-yard kickoff return that set up the Redhawk score on the opening drive. Mitchell Boerm led the team with 87 yards receiving.
The Redhawk defense was busy, and got worn down in the second half by Wapsie Valley's depth at the running back position. Nolan Hefty led the team with 16 tackles and was the only North Tama defender to record a tackle for loss.
A win would have sent the Redhawks to the UNI-Dome to face BGM-Brooklyn, but North Tama had a spectacular season considering the expectations the team entered the year with.
The Redhawks were expected to contend for a district title, but few realized they would rank among the top ten in the state in terms of a passing attack. The team relied heavily on the play of its seniors on offense and a mixture of upperclassmen on defense to earn a 10-2 record and a #5 ranking entering the final game.
Several North Tama players were honored as All-District performers this season, and the Star-Clipper will have details on all of them in next week's issue.