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|10/11/2017 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Sabers break through for first win|
By Ross Eberhart
With its defense pitching a shutout in the first half, the Central DeWitt football team knew it would take just one big offensive play to break open Friday's rival game with Maquoketa.
The Sabers came up with two.
Central broke a scoreless tie with a touchdown on its very first offensive snap of the second half and added a second score shortly thereafter.
The result was two Sabers touchdowns in the span of just four offensive plays.
That proved to be more than enough for a Central defense that surrendered just 105 yards of total offense in a 15-6 victory.
It was the first win of the season for the Sabers and the first career victory for first-year head coach Mike Crane, and a satisfying one at that.
"It felt good," he said. "I think we as a coaching staff were more relieved; we wanted the kids to experience the feeling of a win, and I hope it catapults us to big things the rest of the season."
It was only fitting, on the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the "Fog Bowl," that Friday's meeting between the Sabers and Cardinals had some unique circumstance.
This time it was not fog, but rather a scoreboard malfunction that added a little strangeness to the proceedings.
With the scoreboard standing dark, the two teams played the final four-plus minutes of the game while being relayed the time by the officials.
By that time, the Sabers were putting the final touches on their victory.
Trailing 15-6, Maquoketa's last-gasp effort was foiled on fourth down, and Central capped its strong second half by running the final three minutes off the clock.
The game was still very much up for grabs when the second half kicked off with the score tied at zero.
Maquoketa had the first chance to break through in the third quarter, but gained just four yards before punting the ball away.
Central's first drive proved to be much more fruitful.
Starting on their own 34-yard line, the Sabers ran an option look with quarterback Drew McNamara pitching the ball to running back Easton Necker.
Necker did the rest, sprinting 66 yards through a huge hole on the outside to the end zone for the game's first points. The extra point was off target, but Central led 6-0.
"It was a triple option look that we did not run at all in the first half," Crane said of the touchdown run. "We knew with the way that the defense was playing, we just needed a big play."
The Sabers defense kept the momentum behind the host, pushing the Cardinals backward after an early first down.
When the Central offense got the ball back, it again went right to work.
Tucker Kinney and Necker combined for 13 yards on back-to-back runs before McNamara kept the ball himself on an option.
The quarterback found an opening inside and then cut back outside, surrounded by a convoy of blockers. The resulting 41-yard touchdown run doubled Central's lead.
And the second score proved to be important, as Maquoketa finally broke through the Central defense late in the third quarter.
Using great field position - starting their drive on the Sabers' 27 - the Cardinals used one big pass and one big run to get on the board.
The Sabers, however, blocked the extra point and retained a six-point lead.
The Central offense, meanwhile, came through again.
After Necker gained 10 yards on the first play of the drive, senior Drew Deke converted a key third down with a 15-yard reception.
A play later, McNamara broke free again, this time for 27 yards to the Maquoketa 10-yard line.
The drive stalled, but Jesper Andreassen booted a 23-yard field that made it a two-score game again.
The Central defense did the rest, holding Maquoketa without a first down for the remainder of the game.
Both teams entered the contest with significant absences on offense.
Injuries sidelined Central's leading rusher (Nick Smith) and receiver (Devin Hurdle), as well as Maquoketa starting quarterback Nicholas Ehlinger.
Not surprisingly, defense dominated the first half.
The two teams combined for as many punts as first downs (eight) in the first two quarters, and traded interceptions.
Behind his big dash, Necker rushed for a career-high 165 yards on just 14 carries - an average of nearly 12 yards per carry.
McNamara nearly broke 100 yards himself, missing the feat by a single yard, while joining Necker with a touchdown.
"Because of some injuries, we threw some guys at some new spots and new roles, and they stepped up," Crane said. "Easton ran very well, and Tucker stepped up - that's our future backfield."
McNamara also completed three passes, with Deke coming up with two of them.
The Central defense came up with 10 tackles for loss, including a sack for Kinney. Brandt Petersen led the way with eight tackles, including six solo stops, while Ethan Pierce added seven and Necker six. Zach Hinkle had Central's interception in the first half.
The Sabers will look to carry their momentum with them as they hit the road for a game at Center Point-Urbana.
The Stormin' Pointers opened the season 3-0, but have since dropped four straight games by an average score of 36-8.
Crane is anxious to see how his team builds on its first victory.
"I am curious to see how we react," he said. "I don't want us to be satisfied with our one win against our rival. I want us to finish this season strong and provide a preview of next season."