NEWTON — Halftime came Friday night at H.A. Lynn Stadium, which turned out to be momentum changer.
Newton’s Cardinals had visiting Grinnell on its heals in the first half. Grinnell’s senior quarterback Eli Dunne came in as the top-rated passer in Iowa Class 3A. Dunne was sacked three times, knocked around quite a bit by a relentless Cardinal defense. Unofficially, Dune was 6-of-17 for 58 yards in the first half and no touchdown passes.
It all shifted in the second half. Newton lost 60-35.
The Cardinals used a five-play, 56-yard drive to tie the game at 14-14 at the 1:12 mark of the second quarter. The 38-yard touchdown pass from junior Tyler Wood to junior Nick Easley allowed Wood to tie the NHS career touchdown-pass record.
A minute later, Wood had the record. Colton Henson intercepted a Dunne pass on a fourth-down play, returning it 23 yards to the Tiger 38-yard line. Wood put the ball in the air. Easley went up and snatched away from two defenders for the touchdown.
“We had them right where we wanted them at the end of the first half. We made the big play to put us up. We had all the momentum,” said Ed Ergenbright, Cardinal head coach. “They (Grinnell) didn’t really make any adjustments against us in the second half.
“The same plays were working but we got stagnent. We lose our edge in games. It’s perplexing why it happens. We have to figure that out.”
Unfortunately, Dunne and the Tigers came roaring out of halftime. By the midway point of the third quarter, Grinnell had scored twice. On the first drive of the second half, Dunne hooked up with Christian Graham on a 65-yard scoring strike then he threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Honold.
On both plays, Cardinal defensive players missed tackles and the Tiger receivers broke loose
Three plays and out for Newton’s offense, plus the defense giving up big plays and factor in punts against a stiff southern wind, the Cardinals found themselves in a hole quickly in the second half. All the things they did not want to do against the high-flying Tiger offense in Class 3A, District 4 play, happened.
Grinnell scored 26 points in the third quarter. Newton didn’t score. A 70-yard touchdown run by Bryce Lidtka opened the fourth period, putting the Tigers up 47-21.
Newton responded with a nine-play, 88-yard march to the end zone. Tristan Peters’ run got the drive started with only the second first down of the half for the Cardinals. Wood, who was 9-of-16 for 220 yards on the night, had back-to-back passes to Peters and Deonne Harris to move Newton into Tiger territory.
J.T. Thongvanh ripped off a 13-yard run followed by an 11-yard dash by Wood. Thongvanh pushed ahead five yards from the 10-yard line, and Joseph Banfield had the five-yard touchdown run at the 6:40 mark.
Grinnell chewed up the next three minutes on a drive, capped by a one-yard scoring run by Lidtka. Lidtka finished with 223 yards on 20 carries. Dunne fired up 29 passes, completing 13 for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
Wood’s school record for career touchdown passes went to 15, when he found Peters for a 25-yard scoring strike with 1:01 on the game clock. Grant Davidson kicked his fifth extra point of the night and it was 54-35.
Wood eclipsed the previous holders of the NHS career mark, Doug Dietrich and Adam Rens, who both had 13 touchdown passes in their Cardinal careers. Wood tied a NHS record for most touchdown passes in a game at three. There are six players, who share the record.
Easley also tied a school record with two touchdown catches in a game. He shares this honor with numerous former Cardinals.
Newton had struck first in the district contest. On their second possession, the Cardinals needed just two plays to go 80 yards. Wood found a wide open Peters, who raced to the Grinnell 19-yard line. Wood scored on a 19-yard quarterback keep.
The Tigers’ second possession was much like the first, three plays and punt. Ray Schroder had the first sack of Dunne in the opening possession then Jordan Travis pulled down the Tiger quarterback. Daquan Allen got the next one.
With under three minutes remaining the first quarter, Grinnell had to punt for the third time. Peters muffed the punt and Grinnell’s Griffin Reding recovered the football at the Newton seven-yard line. Dunne had a one-yard dive up the middle on third down for the touchdown.
It was 7-7 with 1:14 on the first-quarter clock.
A short pass to Garrett Jay, a missed tackle by the Cardinals, and the Tigers were at the Newton 45-yard line a minute into the second quarter. Lidtka took it from there to the end zone on the run.
Newton began the tying touchdown march with 3:27 on the clock at its own 44-yard line. Wood hit Peters on a roll-out pass that got the Cardinals on Grinnell’s side of midfield. On a fourth-and-five play, Wood and Easley hooked up for the touchdown.
It was another fourth-down play that gave the Cardinals the lead. Dunne and the Tigers went for it on fourth-and-two at the Newton 40. Hansen tipped the pass up in the air and hauled in the football, returning it to the Tiger 38 with 23 seconds before halftime.
Wood found Easley in a jump-ball situation in the end zone, putting Newton in front 21-14 at the break.
Thongvanh led the Cardinals in rushing, 52 yards on nine carries, followed by Wood with 49 yards on 16 carries. Peters caught four passes for 107 uyards and Easley had two for 76 yards. Harris made one catch for 32 yards.
“We were really close to getting to him (Dunne) on pass plays in the second half like we did in the first half. You have to give them credit because they came out and made some plays,” Ergenbright said.
“I probably shouldn’t have given them the wind in the third quarter, but I thought we could run the ball against them and get some stops.. I wanted the wind in the fourth quarter, expecting to have a lead or in a close. It didn’t turn out that way,” he added.
Ergenbright said the wind effected the kicking game (punts) “but it doesn’t effect run blocking and tackling.”
Allen, senior defensive back, led the team with seven solo tackles and two assisted tackles. Senior linebackers Nick Glotfelty — four solos and six assists — and Will Brock — three solos and three assists — were next on the defensive list. Senior Levi Michener and sophomore Bryce Tish each had three unassisted tackles.
Newton is 2-3 overall and 1-2 in Class 3A, District 4 play. The Cardinals travel to Dallas Center-Grimes for district play this Friday.
Grinnell 7-7-26- 20—60
Newton — Wood 19 yd run (Davidson kick)
Grinnell — Dunne 1 yd run (Mertens kick)
Grinnell — Lidtka 45 yd run (Mertens kick)
Newton — Easley 38 yd pass from Wood (Davidson kick)
Newton — Easley 38 yd pass from Wood (Davidson kick)
Grinnell — Graham 65 yd pass from Dunne( Mertens kick)
Grinnell — Honald 23 yd pass from Dunne (pass failed)
Grinnell — Lidtka 28 yd run (run failed)
Grinnell — Mertens 65 yd pass from Dunne (Mertens kick)
Grinnell — Lidtka 70 yd run (Mertens kick)
Newton — Banfield 5 yd run (Davidson kick)
Grinnell — Lidtka 1 yd run (Mertens kick)
Newton — Peters 25 yd pass from Wood (Davidsion kick)
Grinnell — Cline 64 yd run (kick blocked)
14 First Downs 17
40-148 Rushes/yds 35-302
220 Passing yds 277
368 Total Offense 579
9-16-0 Passing 13-29-1
1/1 Fumbles/lost 0/1
9-33 Punts/Avg. 4-44
3-18 Penalties 7-63
Rushing: Newton-Thongvanh 9-52, Wood 16-49, Banfield 7-26, Peters 4-11, Harris 4-10. Grinnell-Lidka 21-220, Cline 2-70, Clark 3-15, Dunne 8-(-2).
Passing: Newton-Wood 9-16-22-0. Grinnell-Dunne 13-29-277-1.
Receiving: Newton-Peters 4-107, Easley 2-76, Constant 2-5, Harris 1-32. Grinnell-Honald 4-67, Lidtka 3-8, Jay 2-54, Graham 1-65, Mertens 1-65, Reding 1-12, Clark 1-6.
Punting: Newton-Thompson 9-301 (33.4 avg.). Grinnell-Dunne 4-177 (44.2 avg.).
Tackles (S/A): Allen 7/2; Glotfelt 4/6, Brock 3/3, Michener 3/1, Tish 3/0, Hansen 2/2, Travis 2/1, Weatherly 1/3, Bennett 2/0, Stanton 2/0, Exley 1/1, Wood 1/0, McCormick 1/0, Banfield 1/0, Schroder 1/0, Thongvanh 0/1.
Quarterback sacks: Allen 1, Travis 1, Schroder 1.
Fumble Recoveries: none..