INDIANOLA — “We just refused to lose tonight.”
Garrett Sturtz was smiling as he and his Newton High Cardinal teammates basked in a come-from-behind 45-44 victory Friday night. The senior quarterback was calm and collected on the field as he was surrounded by family and fans following the win at Indianola.
Sturtz directed three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter for the Cardinals to overcome a 16-point deficit. The Indians went up 37-21 with 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“Our defense made some key stops in the second half to allow us to come back and tie the game. At the end, they gave us enough time to go win this game,” Sturtz said. “We were keeping it simple. We were going to be ourselves, running plays we have all season and knew would work.”
Down by 16 points with one quarter remaining in their 2017 season, the Cardinals rallied to tie the game at 37-all with 6:19 left to play in the game. The Indians called on their junior running back Dylan Hildreth on what seemed to be the winning drive.
Hildreth, who piled up 240 yards on 34 carries against the Cardinals, scored his fifth TD of the game with 1:06 on the clock.
“I did something I’ve never done before in my coaching career. We let them score. We were running out of time. We had to conserve time to give ourselves an opportunity to mount a drive,” Newton head coach Ed Ergenbright said.
Ergenbright turned the keys over to his three-year starting quarterback with a minute left in the game. Sturtz and the Cardinals took eight plays to go 67 yards. They had to overcome two five-yard penalties along the way.
On a second-and 15, Sturtz threw a 22-yard pass to senior running back Jaron Roush. A late hit penalty on Indianola added another 15 yards to put the Cardinals at the Indians’ 45-yard line. Sturtz picked up two yards on a second down run but faced a 3-and-13 situation following a penalty.
Sturtz connected with senior split end Trevor Ergenbright for 17 yards for a first down and Ergenbright went out of bounds at the Indianola 29 yard line. Another 14-yard pass from Sturtz to junior tight end Jacob Murphy put the ball at the Indianola 15.
Newton called its final timeout — Coach Ergenbright used two timeouts on defense when the Indians scored — with 20 seconds on the clock.
Roush broke off a 10-yard run and got out of bounds. It was first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Sturtz went right up the middle for a 5-yard TD with 11 seconds remaining in the game.
“Don’t ask me why, but I had a feeling about this,” Coach Ergenbright said. “We had not played very well all night. I was aggravated and frustrated because we had practiced so well all week then came here and did not play a clean game.
“I didn’t want this class to go out like that. Garrett just would not let us lose. He made clutch throws and our guys made great catches. Jacob, Trevor and Jaron ran good routes. Trevor getting out of bounds was big on his crossing route.
“I called a play for the 2-point conversion I thought would work, but Indianola had all our receivers covered. Garrett stayed alive back there and our guys blocked until Jaron came open.”
Newton elected to go for the win with a 2-point conversion play at the end.
“I told the guys don’t worry about this play. Life will go on, but we have one more play so let’s go win this game,” Sturtz said. “Jaron made a great catch.”
The game wasn’t over yet. The Indians had 11 seconds. Newton’s defense needed a couple more stops.
On the final play, the ball was lateraled to Hildreth but the Indian running back was stopped in his tracks. Newton junior defensive back Aaron Bartels made the tackle with teammates swarming to him and Hildreth as time ran out.
The Cardinal sideline erupted in celebration. Newton had finished 7-2, which is the best regular-season finish for a Cardinal team in a long while. In 2014, the Cardinals were 7-4 with two Class 3A playoff games in the mix.
“When we got down by 16 points, I just didn’t expect to come back from it with all cylinders firing like we did,” senior defensive nose guard Landon Hanson said. “But Coach G told us seniors at halftime, this was our last half of football and to make it count. This just clicked for us late in the game. I can’t thank all of our coaches enough. Our defense improved the last few games. The Southeast Polk game was a wake-up call. I’m just proud to be a Cardinal.”
Friday’s final game was a back-and-forth contest. Indianola used a 13-play, six-minute drive to score a touchdown to open the game. Hildreth had seven runs on the drive including a 4-yard TD run.
Newton countered with a nine-play scoring march featuring runs by Roush, senior Carson Cazett and Sturtz. Roush, who had 54 yards on nine carries for the game, capped the drive with an 11-yard TD run.
The Cardinal defense forced a three-and-out and punt by the Indians. Newton was driving again but had two 10-yard penalties to push the Cardinals back from the Indianola 23-yard line then Indianola’s Even Gauger intercepted a Sturtz pass.
Newton was plagued by 14 penalties in the game for 89 yards. The only two turnovers of the game were interceptions thrown by Sturtz.
Indianola only needed two plays to cash in on the first turnover. Hildreth dashed 76 yards for a touchdown. Newton’s Landon Hansen blocked Indianola’s Parker Hansen’s extra-point kick.
Another all-run series by the Cardinals put them on top. Junior Josh Miller had a 12-yard run followed by two carries from Cazett, who was back on the field after missing four games with an injury, for 13 more yards.
Sturtz got loose for 57 yards to the Indians’ 2-yard line. Senior Josh Miravalles pushed over the goal line from one yard out. Senior Zach Combs’ extra-point kick put the Cardinals up 14-13 with 6:01 left in the second quarter.
Indianola finished the first half with scoring drive, but the Newton defense held the Indians to a field goal. Parker Hansen hit on a 37-yard field goal attempt to give the Indians a 16-14 halftime lead.
Newton came up short in the second-half opening drive. Indianola took three plays featuring a 48-yard run by Jay Hale to set up 2-yard TD run by Hildreth.
Miravalles broke off a 38-yard dash for Newton in its next possession. Roush had a 7-yard TD run and Combs kicked the extra point at the 7:47 mark of the third quarter.
Indianola closed out the third period with a 45-yard screen pass play from Joe Jensen to Hildreth for a touchdown and 25-yard scoring run by Kolby Kolarik. Hansen kicked extra points and Newton trailed 37-21.
“Every time we looked like we were dead our guys kept coming back. We got a little momentum and the wind in the fourth quarter,” Ergenbright said. “The guys played well on both sides of the ball in that last period. We had two drives with great execution to tie the game.”
The first drive went 80 yards in nine plays. Sturtz, Miller and Roush gained yards on runs. Sturtz shook off the two interceptions and went to the air. He found Trevor Ergenbright, who weaved his way past Indian defenders for 30 yards on his way to the end zone. Sturtz ran in the 2-point conversion.
Newton’s defense forced a punt after six plays by the Indians. Sturtz and the offense went to work again.
Sturtz completed a third-down pass to Murphy to keep the first fourth-quarter drive alive. Then he got through the Indian defense for a 56-yard TD run with Miller tacking on the 2-point conversion run for a 37-37 tie with 6:19 left in the game.
Then came Indianola’s final scoring drive. The Indians used 10 runs by Hildreth and a third-down pass from Jensen to Brandon Newman. Coach Ergenbright called two timeouts during the drive trying to conserve time.
“I made the decision to let them score. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have had any time to come back,” Ergenbright said of Hildreth’s 3-yard TD run with 1:06.
Then came the game-winning drive by the Cardinals.
“We did our jobs. Our offense is so good and we stepped up. We drove down the field,” a very emotional Roush said after the game. “The key to winning games is staying positive when we’re low just as we are doing well. This was a great offense to be on.”
Roush was a starting defensive back for Newton also. He and Sturtz were on the field defensively when Indianola had the ball at the end. Roush came over to help Bartels finish the tackle of Hildreth on the final play.
Combs, Newton’s three-year starting strong safety, led the defensive charge for the Cardinals with seven solo tackles and three assisted tackles. Senior linebacker Grant Garvis racked up seven solo tackles and two assisted tackle. Junior defensive end Lazarus Frisch had five unassisted tackles and three assisted tackles.
Junior linebacker Jaise Gulling had four solo stops and one assisted. Bartels and senior defensive back Grayson Graham had four unassisted tackles apiece.
“If Garrett Sturtz is not the best quarterback in the state of Iowa, I don’t know who is. He would not let us lose tonight. There not a lot of quarterbacks who would have made that final play on the two-point conversion,” Ergenbright said.
Sturtz was 6-of-11 passing for 123 yards and he gained 214 yards on 22 carries. He also punted twice for 59 yards.
Miller had 95 yards on six carries and Miravalles had 58 yards on 10 carries. Newton rushed for 438 yards in the game. Trevor Ergenbright made two catches for 54 yards. Murphy had three catches for 47 yards.
Coach Ergenbright showed his frustration with how the state screwed the whole playoff system up.
“Kids who deserve to be in the state tournament aren’t because they (the iowa State High School Athletic Association) screwed it up,” Ergenbright said. “I hope this year when they have a chance to put it back as it should be, they get it right.”
Indianola — Hildreth 4 yds (Hansen kick)
Newton — Roush 11 yd run (Combs kick)
Indianola — Hildreth 76 yd run (kick blocked)
Newton — Miravalles 1 yd run (Combs kick)
Indianola — Hansen 37 yd field goal
Indianola — Hildreth 2 yd run (Hansen kick)
Newton — Roush 7 yd run (Combs kick)
Indianola — Hildreth 39 yd pass from Jensen (Hansen kick)
Indianola — Kolarik 26 yd run (Hansen kick)
Newton — Ergenbright 30 yd pass from Sturtz (Sturtz run)
Newton — Sturtz 56 yd run (Miller run)
Indianola — Hildreth 3 yd run (Hansen kick)
Newton — Sturtz 5 yd run (Roush pass from Sturtz)
24 First Downs 21
52-438 Rushes-Yds 39-327
123 Passing Yds 150
561 Total Offense 477
6-11-2 Passing 12-23-0
1-0 Fumbles-lost 2-0
14-89 Penalties-Yds 4-40
2-29.5 Punts-Avg. 3-37.7
Rushing: Newton-Sturtz 22-214, Roush 9-54, Miller 6-95, Miravalles 10-58, Carson Cazett 5-17. Indianola-Hildreth 34-240, Hale 1-48, Kolarik 4-40.
Passing: Newton-Sturtz 6-11-123-2. Indianola-Jensen-12-30-150-0.
Receiving: Newton-Ergenbright 2-54, Murphy 3-47, Roush 1-22.I Indianola-Kolarik 3-40, Newman 3-27, Hildreth 2-71, Scott 2-13, Gauger 2-(-1).
Punting: Newton-Sturtz 2-59 (29.5 yd avg.). Indianola-Huff 3-113 (37.7 yd avg.).
Tackles (solos/assisted): Combs 7/3, Garvis 7/2, Frisch 5/3, Gulling 4/1, Bartels 4/0, Graham 4/0, Rhone 2/1, Kuennen 2/0, Hansen 2/0, Cole Cazett 2/0, Romberg 1/1, Altemeier 1/0, Barr 1/0, Ergenbright 1/0, Linahon 1/0, Wolfe 0/1.
Quarterback sacks: none.
Fumbles (forced/recovered): none
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org