It was far from pretty, but the Cardinals needed a win and they got it.
Behind a stellar first-half receiving performance from senior Collin Reynolds, the Newton football team earned a 17-7 victory over Dallas Center-Grimes Friday night at H.A. Lynn Field, evening its Class 3A District 4 record at 2-2 while improving to 2-4 overall.
The win not only keeps the team right in the thick of the playoff race, but was a nice response from a 49-7 drubbing at Grinnell one week earlier.
“We were demoralized last week and they broke our spirit over there,” head coach Ed Ergenbright said. “I don’t think our coaches or kids could have been any lower. It was a long week. We challenged the team to keep their fight and spirit. We had to band together and keep playing as hard as we could.”
At halftime, Newton honored former head coach John Jenkins — the winningest coach in school history — and the Cards’ win was a proper nod to the man who led them to 143 wins from 1986-2003.
Reynolds had 11 receptions for a school-record 177 yards and two touchdowns, with 10 of those grabs and both TDs in the first half.
“We really needed it. Now we’re one game away from the playoffs,” Reynolds said. “We had a lot of controversy with last week not going the way we wanted it to, and a lot of off-the-field stuff going on this week. But we fought through it and that’s what matters.”
Newton built a 17-0 lead by halftime Friday night behind Reynolds’ scores from 21 and 24 yards out from sophomore quarterback Tyler Wood in the first quarter and a 25-yard field goal from sophomore Matt Easley just before halftime. The Cardinals held on from there as their offense essentially stalled the rest of the game and DCG (1-5, 0-3) scored early in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard run.
Newton had plenty of chances to put the game out of reach throughout the game as the Mustangs turned the ball over time and again with bad shotgun snaps and center-quarterback exchanges, but the Cards just couldn’t find a way to take advantage.
“We did some real good things in the first half to get the points on the board, but we really could have buried them,” Ergenbright said. “We got the turnovers, but couldn’t capitalize. Our defense held up all night long.”
The Cardinals’ first five possessions all started in Mustang territory, and two of the first three resulted in touchdowns. It was the Reynolds show through the game’s first 18 minutes. Newton’s first four plays were all passes to him. Its first possession included a 23-yard strike down to DCG’s 21-yard line, and one play later, Wood hit Reynolds streaking over the middle for a touchdown at 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the game.
Newton’s next possession reached the Mustangs’ 7 on the strength of a 33-yard Reynolds reception in which he outfought the defender on a jump ball, but the drive ended with a short missed field goal. But Reynolds would find the endzone shortly thereafter. The Cards’ next drive started at the Mustangs’ 45, and a couple plays later, Wood lofted a pass into the near corner of the endzone and Reynolds ran under it and hauled it in for a 24-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
“They put more guys in to stop the run, so we wanted to throw it,” Reynolds said. “Tyler put them right on the money.”
Meanwhile, DCG had all sorts of problems early with high shotgun snaps that resulted in fumbles and sacks. Its first four possessions went backwards, and the next two ended with lost fumbles. Still, Newton wasn’t able to cash in throughout the second quarter until it added a 26-yard field goal from Easley with 22 seconds left in the half to go up 17-0.
The second half wasn’t a good one for either team. Newton had three three-and-outs in the third quarter, and DCG couldn’t move the ball either. But its final drive of the quarter carried over into the fourth, and it ended with running back Chaz Chambers taking a sweep untouched up the Newton sideline for a 27-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 17-7 with 9:47 left to play.
But Newton’s defense preserved the win from then on. The Mustangs’ final three possessions ended with a turnover on downs at Newton’s 43, a three-and-out and then another turnover on downs at the Newton 39 to essentially end the game.
The Cardinals certainly weren’t satisfied with how their offense was stymied throughout the second half, but nevertheless, theynow might now be just one more district win from a postseason berth, with two district games remaining. Both are certainly winnable, with a home game vs. Saydel (0-7, 0-4) Oct. 12 and then at Ballard (2-4, 1-2) Oct. 19. They travel to to Adel next Friday for a non-district matchup against fifth-ranked Adel-DeSoto-Minburn (5-1).
“We had to have this win,” Ergbenbright said. “We’re not sitting that bad in the district. We get another win or two, and we’ll have a chance to play another game. That’s what these kids are playing for. It was a special night, honoring coach Jenkins. I told them to play with the spirit that all the former Newton teams have played with.”
Newton 17, Dallas Center-Grimes 7
DCG 0 0 0 7 — 7
Newton 14 3 0 0 — 17
N — Reynolds 21 pass from Wood (Easley kick), 9:33
N — Reynolds 24 pass from Wood (Easley kick), 1:33
N — Easley 26 field goal, 0:22
D — Chambers 27 run (Lortz kick), 9:46
Game stats DCG Newton
First downs 15 11
Rush att-yds 44-140 27-64
Pass comp-att-int 9-20-1 16-33-2
Passing yards 120 205
Total offense yards 260 269
Fumbles-lost 4-3 1-0
Penalties-yards 5-40 5-40
PASSING (comp-att-int-yds): DCG — Andrew Kramer 9-20-1-120. N — Tyler Wood 16-33-2-205. RUSHING (att-yds): DCG — Chaz Chambers 14-67, Alex Hansen 13-65, Kramer 17-8. N — Wood 9-41, Dakota HIlls 8-31. RECEIVING (rec-yds): DCG — Colin Schroeder 3-77, Hansen 3-33, Jake Lewis 2-12. N — Collin Reynolds 11-177, Andrew Clements 3-16. TACKLES (solo-assist-sacks-for loss): N — Hills 7-5-2-3.5, Will Brock 5-6-1-0, Levi Michener 7-1-1-2, Michael Miller 6-1-1-3.