Spirit Lake keeps perfect drive alive
With a playoff berth already wrapped up, No. 3 Spirit Lake took care of business for the eighth straight week by locking up homefield advantage for the first two rounds of the postseason and securing at least a share of the Class 2A District 1 title with a 27-3 victory over Unity Christian on Friday.
"Our guys have done up to this point up what they set out to do," said Spirit Lake coach Josh Bolluyt. "We have another week yet and want to continue to get better, but it's nice to know that we're the No. 1 seed in our district and at least to know when and where our next game will be."
The Indians are now 8-0 for the first time in school history and could tie the school wins record with a victory over Sioux Center in their season finale next Friday at Hafer Field. Spirit Lake, which sits a game ahead of Central Lyon/George-Little Rock with a 5-0 district record, has never finished as the outright district champions. The Mustangs play at Unity Christian to end the regular season.
After riding its offense for most of the season, the Indian defense turned into the heroes of the night when they jump-started a 20-0 fourth quarter explosion on a Sawyer Harms' interception that was returned 22 yards to paydirt with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
"Andrew (Broocks) put great pressure on the screen because the guy was there and was open on the play and Sawyer was there underneath (for the interception)," said Bolluyt. "...and Tate (Hanson) made a nice block to lead to the score, so it was a big play for us."
The momentum-shifting play came less than 30 seconds after SL had strung together a 11-play, 88-yard scoring drive. Rick Maris carried a reverse 41 yards for the key play, before Luke Kabele took his sixth carry of the possession into the end zone from six yards out at the 10:28 mark.
The two teams had battled to a 7-3 score through three quarters in a knockdown, dragout affair that looked like it would be an offensive shootout on paper.
A bad punt gave the Indians the ball at the Knight 46 on their opening possession. Three plays into the drive, Bryson McCabe found some running room and score on a 35-yard run up the middle at the 9:29 mark of the first quarter. Brett Cochran-Bray made the extra-point attempt to open up a 7-0 lead.
The Indian offense looked out-of-sync after losing starting quarterback Paul Brown to an injury five minutes into the game, but the defense more than held their own and limited Unity Christian to just three points on a 27-yard field goal by Jason Goslinga with 2:10 left in the first half.
"I'm impressed with our whole team. There were a lot of adverse situations that we went through tonight and guys stepped up in big ways," said Bolluyt. "Andrew did a great job creating penetration and really our whole defensive line did."
Kabele, who rushed for 146 yards and two TDs, completed his workhorse-type performance by dashing through a gapping hole on the left side and sprinting 32 yards for a score with 3:30 left to play.
But in the end it was the defense that stole the show. The Knight offense was bottled up for much of the night, managing 57 yards in the second half and 153 for the game. SL came away with four sacks and 13 tackles for a loss.
"I really thought our defense did a good job the whole game," said Bolluyt. "You could talk about their intermediate passing game in the first half, but they threw some good balls and we were really concentrating on their running game. I think they completed four passes in the first half and one pass in the second half, so I think we played solidly the whole game. Our defensive backs played really good. Alex Dau and Bryson each had a good game and Kevin (Martinson) did a good job with the run game."
Broocks, the team's leading tackler, finished with 14 stops (11 solos) and two sacks. Harms had 12 tackles, a sack and a pick, while Cody Poock and Tate Hanson both made nine stops. Alex Dau had eight and McCabe tallied seven tackles.
The Indians gained 282 yards on the ground and amassed 7.2 yards per carry. Aric Waltz and McCabe combined for 95 yards rushing. Adam Dau, who replaced Brown, finished 3-of-8 passing for 35 yards with an interception.
"If you look at the first half, we didn't get great field position offensively and I think we just had 17 plays. We just stayed the course and didn't panic and just continued to call the plays the way we normally would as a coaching staff," said Bolluyt. "We got the run game going in the second half and continued to distribute the ball well and defensively we played great throughout. They lead the district in about every category offensively and we did a great job of stopping their run game and when they had to throw we did a good job of limiting them from big plays."