ADEL — Who would've thought?
The Newton football team made the trip out to Adel Friday night to take on No. 8 Adel-DeSoto-Minburn knowing what everyone said its chances were: slim-to-none.
That's why they play the game.
Behind a stout defensive effort and two huge plays on opposite ends of the field from seniors in the game's final three minutes, the Cardinals came away with an improbable 17-13 win in non-district action to spoil the Tigers' Homecoming. It was Newton's biggest win of the season, and one of the biggest in head coach Ed Ergenbright's nine-year tenure.
"This feels absolutely amazing — coming in here, beating a team like this," said Cardinals senior Dakota Hills, who rushed for an even 100 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. "We prepared really hard and all believed in each other."
Newton senior Andrew Clements caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Tyler Wood that gave Newton the winning score with 2 minutes and 37 seconds left to play, and fellow senior Collin Reynolds intercepted a pass in the Newton endzone on ADM's ensuing possession with 57 ticks left to allow the Cardinals to kneel on the ball for the upset win.
The win improved Newton to 3-4 overall, while it remains 2-2 in Class 3A District 4, while ADM lost its second-straight game and fell to 5-2 overall.
The Cardinals were outgained 328-211 in total offense, but time and again came up with big defensive stops when they needed to. ADM entered the game as the most prolific offense in 3A — leading the state at 450 yards per game. Tigers senior running back Jordan Grove entered as the state's leading rusher with 1,414 yards.
The way the game started, it looked like it was going to be a long night for Newton on a cold fall night even by Iowa standards. The Tigers intercepted a Newton pass at their 1-yard line, and Grove followed it with a 33-yard run right before a 66-yard touchdown run that put ADM up 6-0 early after a blocked extra point.
After that, Grove was completely shut down by the Newton defense. He gained just two more yards the rest of the night, finishing with 101 on 12 carries. It forced ADM to switch to a passing attack, in which it completed only 12-of-26 attempts and was sacked six times.
Two Cardinal possessions after Grove's touchdown, Newton struck back in a big way as Hills ripped off a 46-yard TD run — by far the team's longest run of the season — to put the Cards up 7-6 with 1:47 left in the first quarter. Newton's previous season-long run was 21 yards.
"That was awesome," Hills said about the run. "My line had great blocks and made a big hole. I couldn't have done it without them."
ADM muffed a punt early in the second quarter that Newton senior Ryan Jolivette recovered, and the Cards cashed in with a 35-yard field goal from sophomore Nick Easley to go ahead 10-6. The first half ended with that score after the teams traded punts the next four possessions.
At that point, the game had an eerily similar feel to the team's matchup last year, in which Newton led ADM 10-7 early in the third quarter before the Tigers outscored the Cardinals 26-0 in the second half to win 33-10.
"We definitely had last year in mind and knew we had to finish the game out," Clements added. "We knew that if we won this game, it would put us in a good spot and a good mindset for the next couple weeks."
"We went back to last year how we went into halftime like this," Hills added. "We knew we couldn't come out and just hold on. We had to keep running the ball and stepping on their throat."
Newton's offense sputtered in the third quarter, having three three-and-outs. ADM's first drive of the quarter ended in a turnover on downs at the Cardinal 39, but their second included a 48-yard screen pass that set up a 1-yard score on a sneak from senior QB Kyle Herrick. That put ADM back in front 13-10 with 1:53 left in the quarter.
The Cardinals' defense reclaimed the game's momentum early in the fourth, sacking Herrick on back-to-back plays, with the second forcing a turnover on downs at the Newton 31. Junior Levi Michener had the first sack, and seniors Jolivette and Derrick Hurt combined for the second. Michener had a huge game at linebacker, recording nine solo tackles, with four for a loss — including two sacks. Jolivette had six total tackles and three for a loss — besides his fumble recovery.
Newton's ensuing drive went 47 yards, ate up time and reached the Tigers' 14, but ended with Easley missing a 35-yard field goal wide left. It seemed the Cards were starting to run out of chances to tie or take the lead with 5:50 left to play.
But Newton's defense forced ADM to punt again and took over possession on its own 49. On the next play, Wood rainbowed a pass down the Tigers' sideline for Clements, who outfought the defender for the catch and broke away for a 51-yard, go-ahead touchdown that made the score 17-13 with 2:37 left.
"Coach called the C-route. I saw Clem going around and I just wanted to give him a chance," Wood said about the play. "I knew the safety was there. I just wanted to make the game-winning play."
"Andrew made a huge play. That was a Collin (Reynolds)-like play," added Ergenbright. "He went up and took the ball away from that d-back."
However, ADM still had plenty of time to put together a game-winning drive, and it nearly did. Two first downs and a personal foul on Newton set the Tigers up with a first down at the Cardinals' 24 with 1:47 left. On third-and-two, a Herrick pass appeared to clearly hit the ground before a receiver covered it up at the 10, but the official saw it differently and gave ADM a first-and-goal.
At that point, Newton had yet to record a single interception through nearly seven games this season. Reynolds — playing safety — couldn't have picked a better time to make it happen.
On the very next play, Herrick threw a jump ball into the corner of the endzone that Reynolds high-pointed and came down with for a pick with 57 seconds left. An official threw a late flag, creating a few tense seconds that players and fans had to wait through until he announced it was for a Newton personal foul after the play for excessive celebration. But knowing the Cardinals would keep the ball, it set off another celebration in the Newton stands.
ADM had no timeouts remaining, which enabled Newton to kneel on the ball twice to end the game for the improbable upset.
"I really wanted to prove that we could play with a ranked team and with anybody," said Wood, who finished 10-of-17 for 113 yards with an interception. "We have the talent. We just need to execute and that's what we did."
"Speechless," Hills said about what it felt like when the clock it all zeros. "I was just so proud of everybody. We all did our job."
After a 1-4 start, Newton has now won three of its last four games. If they win their next two, they'll be guaranteed a playoff spot. Next Friday is a home game vs. winless Saydel (0-8, 0-5), which will be coming off a 46-0 loss to Dallas Center-Grimes (2-5, 1-3) and has been outscored 300-8 in district games this season. That game will be Senior Night for the Cardinals.
Newton 7 3 0 7 — 17
ADM 6 0 7 0 — 13
ADM — Grove 66 run (kick blocked), 9:38
N — Hills 46 run (Easley kick), 1:47
N — Easley 35 field goal, 7:44
ADM — Herrick 1 run (Heimann kick), 1:53
N — Clements 52 pass from Wood (Easley kick), 2:57
Game statistics N ADM
First downs 9 13
Rush att-yds 39-98 30-129
Pass comp-att-int 10-17-1 12-26-1
Pass yds 113 199
Total yds 211 328
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yds 7-67 9-94
Third downs 5-of-17 2-of-10
Sacks by 6 3
Rushing (att-yds) — N: Dakota Hills 16-100, Andrew Clements 2-12. ADM: Jordan Grove 12-101, Isaac Norton 7-53. Passing (comp-att-int-yds) — N: Tyler Wood 10-17-1-113. ADM: Herrick 12-26-1-199. Receiving — N: Clements 3-66, Collin Reynolds 4-19, Hills 3-28 ADM: Tate Jensen 5-97, Samuel Plagman 2-59, Grant Goeden 2-30. Newton tackles (solo-assist-for loss) — Levi Michener 9-1-4, Ryan Jollivette 4-4-3. Newton sacks — Michener 2, Jollivette 1.5, Hills 1, Will Brock 1, Derrick Hurt 0.5.