Football: Second half surge lifts Indians past Tornadoes
Third-ranked (Class 2-A) Spirit Lake rebounded from a slow start by coming out reenergized and refocused in the second half of a 52-16 victory over Storm Lake in its final tune-up prior to district play Friday, Aug. 31 at Tornado Field. After the Tornadoes pulled as close as 24-16 in the third quarter, Casey Spaeth sparked his team with a kickoff return for a touchdown late in the third, and the Indians followed with three more touchdowns in the final stanza.
"I was really happy with how we responded in the second half," said Spirit Lake coach Josh Bolluyt. "We did not play sharp early on. We made a lot of mistakes and a had a lot of penalties. We didn't seem to be real focused. We came out in the second half and played with more focus and more discipline. The guys were more positive in the second half. Special teams was huge. We had a kickoff return for a touchdown and had some other big returns that set up good field position, so in the second half we were able to get things going."
A trick play put the Indians ahead 6-0 in the first quarter when Cody Poock found Spaeth open on a halfback pass that went 34 yards to paydirt. A bad snap foiled the PAT kick.
Storm Lake, however, jumped on top 7-6 with a score early in the second quarter.
The Indians regained their edge with two touchdowns and a field goal in the quarter, moving ahead 24-10 at the half even though they committed three turnovers and were called for over 100 yards of penalties in the first half.
Poock started the scoring by breaking off a long scoring run, then Bryson McCabe ran in the two-point conversion.
Kicker Brett Cochran-Bray drilled a 37-yard field goal and Nick Amundson hauled in a 13-yard connection from Paul Brown to cap off the scoring.
After the Tornadoes got as close as 24-16, Spirit Lake started to roll after McCabe fielded a kickoff and then pitched it to Spaeth, who sprinted down the sideline for a score.
"Our blocking was really good on our kick return," said Bolluyt. "Our guys did a nice job of creating seams."
McCabe, Andrew Ites and Brown all made it across the goal line for scores in the fourth. Brandon Stoll's interception set up Brown's touchdown run.
"I feel like our leadership in the second half was key," Bolluyt said. "We calmed down and focused on what we needed to do offensively, defensively and on special teams. Brandon (Stoll) had a huge interception and Andrew Ites had a really great second half with some big blocks and a great catch. I just felt like we played more focused in the second half, which led to a lot better execution."
Bolluyt thought his special teams stood out for the second week in a row.
"We try to be explosive in every aspect of our game and with Bryson and Casey back (returning kicks) we feel like we can score every time they touch the ball," he said. "We blocked a kick this week for the second week in a row since Paul (Brown) had one last week and Brett (Cochran-Bray) was 100 percent on PATs, he had a touchback to start the game and had a field goal. Besides our two fumbles on special teams, it was really good as far as creating momentum."
Spaeth, who finished with 158 return yards, was the top pass catcher with three receptions for 86 yards and a TD. Brown was 9 of 13 under center for 143 yards with three touchdowns (one rushing). Ites caught three balls for 73 yards and finished with 36 yards rushing. McCabe added 37 yards and a score and Poock led the Indians with 95 yards rushing and a touchdown.
"(Cody) had a good night running the ball," said Bolluyt. "It was a night where he finally had an opportunity to get some carries. He had 10 carries for close to 95 yards, so he had some good room to the run the ball behind our offensive line that made lots of good blocks in front of him. Sam Baskerville came in on the offensive line because Sam Harms had to go out (with an injury), and I thought he had some good blocks for us, so it was good to see a guy step up when he had the opportunity."
The Indians finished with 372 yards of total offense, rushing for 195 yards and passing for 177.
"We were pretty balanced all game," Bolluyt said. "We came out and threw the ball pretty evenly the whole game. We were at 195 rushing and around 180 passing and did a real nice job of mixing things up. In the first first half we had 100 yards of penalties and had two turnovers, so in the second half we took care of those things and didn't have as many penalties."
Even though they allowed Storm Lake to pass for 198 yards, the Indians picked off three passes and limited the Tornadoes to just 34 yards rushing on 31 carries.
"Defensively we were able to apply pressure in the run game and got them out of what they wanted to do," said Bolluyt. "We did some decent things in the pass game, but at times gave them some space. Zach (Arneson) made a great play early in the game, Nick Amundson made a great break on the ball and I was pleased with that and Brandon (Stoll) made a big play on his interception. Those guys just continued to battle and I was proud of them."
Tanner Kroon paced the defense with eight tackles -- three for a loss -- and a sack. Poock finished with seven stops and a sack and Brady Mart had six. Cody Norton also made five tackles and recorded a sack. The Indians held a 4-2 advantage in takeaways, which included a 50 yard fumble return from Stoll.
The Indians (2-0) lock up with No. 9 Forest City on the road in the first week of district play.
"The biggest thing I was proud of was how we responded in the second half and our leadership," said Bolluyt. "We just have to continue to get better because Forest City is a good football team, so it'll be a big challenge for us."