HUMBOLDT — The Newton football team entered Wednesday’s Class 3A first round playoff game against Humboldt with a lot of momentum and a rejuvinated fanbase excited to see its team in the postseason for the first time in five years.
The Cardinals left it shellshocked.
Newton ran into a buzzsaw in the form of the Wildcats, who thoroughly dominated the Cards for a 42-3 win that not many could have seen coming.
Humboldt (7-3) rolled up 475 yards of offense — equally gashing Newton (5-5) with the pass as it outscored the Cards 22-0 in the second quarter to lead 28-3 at halftime and didn’t let up.
“You don’t want to go out like this — getting beat like that,” Newton head coach Ed Ergenbright said. “I told our guys there’s only one team left in the state that has a smile on its face when all is said and done. Everyone else is going to go home with a loss. That’s just the way it is.”
Humboldt was making its first playoff appearance since winning a state championship in 2006. It will stay in town to host ninth-ranked South Tama (8-2) in the second round.
The Wildcats scored on six of their first seven possessions — and the only one they didn’t ended with a missed 27-yard field goal on the last play of the first half. They had scoring drives of 60, 80, 53, 63, 65 and 69 yards. Humboldt ran for 270 yards and threw for 205.
“I thought the key thing was their offensive line play,” Ergenbright said. “They got off the ball and got into us. They were blocking us, and that’s a credit to them.”
Humboldt running back Brady Ross its primary bulldozer, as the 6-foot-1, 195-pound sophomore ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns on only 16 carries. Senior quarterback Ben Jacobson was the one who kept the offensive machine running full-throttle, throwing for 197 yards and three scores on 10-of-13 passing.
Newton’s offense wasn’t too shabby, either. It gained a season-high 297 yards and 16 first downs, but stalled time and again before getting into serious scoring range.
After Humboldt went 60 yards and scored on the game’s opening possession, the Cardinals looked like they would answer with a score of their own. They dinked-and-dunked their way for 78 yards down to the Tigers’ 1-yard line, but were stopped on third-and-goal and had to resort to an 18-yard field goal by sophomore Nick Easley to make it a 6-3 game with two minutes and 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
Little did anyone know, that would be the Cardinals’ only score of the game.
Humboldt came right back with an 80-yard scoring drive. Ross picked up 40 of those yards on a third-and-nine run in which he broke a tackle that would have stopped him for a short gain. Three plays later, Jacboson threaded the needle over the middle to senior Tyler Zaugg for a 40-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14-3 after the two connected on a two-point conversion pass.
Newton picked up two first downs on its ensuing possession but then had to punt, and the partially-blocked kick only went 10 yards and the Tigers took over at their 47. They had a first down at the Cardinals’ 12 and then had two touchdown plays called back on penalties, but it didn’t stop them. On third-and-20, Jacboson dropped back and had all sorts of time to find sophomore Jaxon Heinz over the middle at the goaline for a 22-yard strike to officially blow the game open at 21-3 midway through the second quarter.
“They’d go play-action and we weren’t getting pressure. He’d have time to throw,” Ergenbright said. “Our corner slipped a couple times and they were open on big third downs that kept drives alive. We just couldn’t get off the field on defense.”
The Tigers completed a 31-yard pass on a third-and-12 on their next drive that led to a 1-yard TD run by senior Ryan Lee to make the score 28-3 with 1:13 left in the half. By intermission, Humboldt had amassed exactly 300 yards of offense.
Newton opened the second half by picking up two first downs before sophomore quarterback Tyler Wood threw a jump ball near the Cardinals’ sideline that was intercepted. It was Newton’s first turnover in 13 quarters of football.
The Tigers then continued to gash the Cardinals’ defense, ripping off runs of 18, 30 and 22 yards down to Newton’s 1, and after a holding penalty, Ross went 13 yards right up the middle for a touchdown to make it a 35-3 game with 7:28 left in the third quarter.
The Cardinals’ ensuing drive went 49 yards but ended in a turnover on downs at Humboldt’s 31. The Tigers’ final scoring drive started from there, as they picked up three first downs and converted two fourth downs — the second of which was Jacobson using play-action to a wide-open Zaugg for an eight-yard touchdown. That enacted a running clock with the score at 42-3 with 10:01 left to play.
Wood was picked off on a deep ball on Newton’s next possession, and then Humboldt was able to run out the clock on its ensuing drive — putting in its reserves for the last 5:19.
And so ended the prep football career for 22 Cardinal seniors — a group Ergenbright always spoke highly of. Four of them — Collin Reynolds, Andrew Clements, Dakota Hills and Derrick Hurt — were two-way starters. He emphasized how the seniors’ leadership is what was responsible for the team’s turnaround from being 1-4 to winning four straight games to get to the playoffs.
“That’s what I expected from them. That’s the kind of kids they are,” he said. “They wouldn’t go to the tank when they had the chance to and they were able to make this really good run the second half of the year.”
Class 3A playoffs first round
Humboldt 42, Newton 3
N 3 0 0 0 — 3
H 6 22 7 7 — 42
H — Ross 9 run (kick no good), 9:19
N — Easley 18 field goal, 2:14
H — Zaugg 40 pass from Jacobson (Zaug 2-point pass from Jacobson), 11:46
H — Heinz 22 pass from Jacobson (kick good), 6:47
H — Lee 1 run (kick good), 1:13
H — Ross 13 run (kick good), 7:28
H — Zaugg 8 pass from Jacobson (kick good), 10:01
Game stats N H
First downs 16 20
Total offense yds 297 475