Expectations for Friday’s Class 4A District 4 game between Newton High’s Cardinals and the third-ranked West Des Moines Valley Tigers included a Valley victory. The outcome was as expected, but the game wasn’t what was expected.
It was a Tiger win, 38-28, at Newton’s H.A. Lynn Stadium. The Cardinals made sure the Tigers and their fans remembered the 2017 Friday night they played the Cardinals on Senior Night.
The two teams each came into the game at 6-1 overall. Valley sported a 3-0 District 4 mark and Newton was 2-1. It was not the lopsided contest many thought it would be. The Cardinals and Tigers played a close contest and respected each other enough to walk off the field together at the end.
“We had nothing to lose tonight, so we went out there and played football. Through the offseason we worked hard together and built a brotherhood. We knew we could win this game,” Newton senior split end Trevor Ergenbright said. “We give credit to Valley because they have a heck of team. They also showed the best sportsmanship we’ve seen all season.”
The game was in doubt until the final two minutes. The Cardinals had completed a 20-play, 76 yard touchdown drive, eating up eight minutes of the fourth quarter to pull within three points, 31-28.
Senior quarterback Garrett Sturtz directed the drive which was capped by a 1-yard push over the goal line right up the middle by senior Josh Miravalles. Sturtz ran for two scores and had a TD pass against the Tigers in the 38-28 loss.
Valley’s Tigers started on their own 16-yard line with 3:33 remaining in the game. Two running plays netted only four yards by Jevon Mason and twice Newton head coach Ed Ergenbright called timeouts.
“This was what we were shooting for. The kids played with a lot of intensity. Last week showed the guys there was more in us,” Coach Ergenbright said. “It’s not so much about Xs and Os as we ran the same plays tonight as we did against Southeast Polk. We just had an edge about us.”
The defense had put the Cardinals in a position to possibly pull off an upset on Senior Night. Newton needed one more play to turn the tide.
The Cardinals got pressure on Valley quarterback Beau Lombardi, but Jalen Long found himself alone behind the Newton defense. Lombardi launched a pass with Cardinal players bearing down on him in the backfield.
“We had a blown coverage. If we get that defensive stop, we had the opportunity to win this one,” Coach Ergenbright said about the pass play that covered 65 yards. “But, what a game we had tonight. Our guys never backed down and knew they had a game like this in them.”
The long pass play set up the final score of the night. Mason scored his third rushing touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run. The Tigers (7-1) wrapped up their second straight 4A District 4 title, securing a playoff spot with a 4-0 district mark with one game remaining.
The Cardinals and Tigers traded turnovers in the final two minutes of the game. Newton had a fourth-and-four and didn’t convert. Valley took possession and just knelt down to allow the clock to expire.
Newton fell to 6-2 overall and 2-2 in district action. The Cardinals finish the 2017 season next Friday at Indianola with a 4A District 4 contest. Indianola rallied past Fort Dodge 35-32 on Friday and Southeast Polk beat Marshalltown 52-0.
“The guys played with reckless abandon tonight and believed in themselves. They trusted what we were doing on both sides of the ball,” Coach Ergenbright said. “We start preparing for our final game. To finish 7-2 for this team would be tremendous and that’s what we’ll shoot for this coming week.”
It took one offensive play to put the Tigers on the scoreboard Friday night. Mason broke loose on a 67-yard TD dash and Tinsley Wright kicked the extra point.
The Cardinals came out and executed their game plan — long, time-consuming sustained drives for scores to keep the Tiger’s potent offense on the sideline. Newton answered with an 11-play drive going 80 yards in six minutes.
Sturtz and the Cardinals mixed in a few pass plays — a nine-yard one to senior tight end Jacob Murphy on a first down and a six-pass to Trevor Ergenbright later in the drive. Sturtz, who finished with 126 yards rushing on 28 carries, powered the march.
Sturtz went around the end to reach the end zone from three yards out. Senior Zach Combs kicked the tying extra point with 5:38 left in the first period. It was 7-7 at the end of the quarter.
“We just kept fighting and moving the ball,” Trevor Ergenbright said. “We left it all on the field tonight.”
Mason had a 48-yard TD run wiped out with a holding call on Valley’s next possession. Facing a fourth-and-seven, the Tigers handed the ball to Mason, who was stopped after one yard.
Newton moved the ball to the Valley 40-yard line then went backwards with penalties and a quarterback sack. Sturtz punted it.
Lombardi finished Valley’s longest scoring march of the game — six plays — with a 1-yard TD run at 9:16 left in the second quarter. Lombardi was 10-of-18 passing for 187 yards and two of those pass came on the drive.
Down 14-7, the Cardinals moved the ball again but came up short. They did take about five minutes off the clock in the second quarter. Valley started at its own 17-yard and went no where as Newton’s defense held and forced a punt.
Three plays later Newton struck back to knot the score at 14-all. Sturtz found junior running back Josh Miller down the sideline for a 33-yard TD pass. Combs kicked the extra point.
With 1:32 left in the first half, Newton’s defense took a stand as Valley threatened to score. The Tigers had first-and-goal at Newton’s 6-yard line but Mason was tackled for a 2-yard loss followed by an incomplete pass.
Time was slipping away so the Tigers opted for a 25-yard field goal by Cole Peterson on the final play of the first half. Valley led Newton 17-14 at the break.
Newton got the second-half kickoff but the Cardinals were hit by a rash of penalties in the final two periods of play. They kept shooting themselves in the foot offensively as their opening drive stalled out.
Valley went 44 yards on two plays — a 22-yard run by Mason and a 22-yard TD pass from Lombardi to Tariq Brown. The Tigers were up 24-14 with 7:13 in the third quarter.
Valley had the ball again and was in Newton territory. This time the Tigers fumbled the football and Newton junior defensive end Mason Lee had the first of his two fumble recoveries of the night.
Sturtz led the Cardinals on another 11-play TD drive, scoring from eight yards out with 23 seconds left in the third quarter. Several key plays were a 14-yard run by senior running back Jaron Roush, who reversed his field to get free, an 11-yard pass play where Sturtz made a pinpoint throw on the run to Ergenbright on the sideline and a kick-out block by Miravalles on the edge to allow Roush to gain 22 yards to the Valley 11.
But in a blink of an eye, — three plays and 48 yards — Valley’s Mason scored on a 15-yard TD run on the final play of the period. Mason had 15 carries for 192 yards in the game.
Newton didn’t fold, down 31-21.
The Cardinals took the ensuing kickoff to start the fourth quarter and responded to close the gap to three points against the No. 3 team in Class 4A. They converted on four third-down situations and one big fourth-and-one pass from Sturtz to Murphy to the Valley 24-yard line.
“We left it all out on the field. We played for each other, played hard and never gave up,” senior linebacker Grant Garvis said. “We’ve got one more game together as a team. We’re looking to build on our play tonight for that one.”
Valley — Mason 67 yd run (Wright kick)
Newton — Sturtz 3 yd run (Combs kick)
Valley — Lombardi 1 yd run (Wright kick)
Newton — Miller 33 yd pass from Sturtz (Combs kick)
Valley — Peterson 25 yd field goal
Valley — Brown 22 yd pass from Lombardi (Wright kick)
Newton — Sturtz 8 yd run (Combs kick)
Valley — Mason 15 yd run (Wright kick)
Newton — Miravalles 1 yd run (Combs kick)
Valley — Mason 15 yd run (Wright kick)
21 First Downs 18
58-231 Rushes-Yds 27-258
104 Passing Yds 187
231 Total Offense 440
12-19-1 Passing 10-18-0
1-0 Fumbles-lost 3-2
12-101 Penalties-Yds 8-65
4-37 Punts-Avg. 1-31
Rushing: Newton-Sturtz 28-126, Roush 14-82, 8-17, Miravalles 8-6. Valley-Mason 15-192, Fugate 4-51, Lombardi 7-11, Mitchell 1-4.
Passing: Newton-Sturtz 8-21-88-1. Valley-Lombardi 10-18-187-0.
Receiving: Miller 3-33, Murphy 3-30, Ergenbright 3-24, Roush 2-12, Miravalles 2-5. Valley-Brown 4-70, Long 4-96, Matney 1-6, Neu 1-15.
Punting: Newton-Sturtz 4-147 (36.8 yd avg.). Valley-Mason 1-31 (31 yd avg.)
Tackles (solos/assisted): Combs 6/3, Frisch 5/5, Kuennen 3/2, Rhone 3/1, Graham 3/0, Lee 2/0, Johnson 2/0, Gulling 1/2, Hansen 1/0, Bartels 0/1, Romberg 0/1, Wolfe 0/1.
Quarterback sacks: none.
Fumbles (forced/recovered): Lee 0/2.