Oct. 30—SIGOURNEY — It seemed like nothing or nobody could slow down the Sigourney-Keota football team in recent weeks.
For the second time in three years, however, Dike-New Hartford had the answers for a Cobra attack that has at times seemed to be impossible to stop. The explosive plays and quick strikes that had defined the most recent of sixth-ranked S-K's eight straight wins were stymied by the Wolverines on Friday night during the second round of the Class 1A Iowa High School State Football playoffs.
In fact, the explosiveness came in the second half from Dike-New Hartford. Noah Borcherding dashed right up the middle of the field for an 82-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter before answering a long scoring drive by S-K with an 79-yard kickoff return for a score as the Wolverines stunned the Cobras, winning 28-18 at 'The Snake Pit.'
"I'm just disappointed for our players and our seniors. This was their last run and what they've been able to accomplish in these four years has been tremendous for our program, for our culture," S-K head football coach Jared Jensen said. "They kind of really raised that bar for our team. There are some things we could have done better, but that was a No. 3 seed that could have easily been a No. 1 seed.
"We've got a lot of respect for these guys. I'm just sad for our guys for how it ended."
Sigourney-Keota came into Friday's game hoping to avenge their loss in the Class 1A state quarterfinals to Dike-New Hartford two years ago. As S-K has done in recent weeks this season, the Wolverines struck early two years ago against the Cobras defense when Jacob Stockdale found Devon Kollasch on an 82-yard touchdown pass setting the tone for a 38-14 win over S-K in a postseason battle of unbeatens.
Friday's postseason rematch saw Dike-New Hartford set a much different tone early, preventing S-K from striking quickly after scoring opening-minute touchdowns in each of the last two games. The Cobras managed less than two yards a carry on their first two drives, gaining just one first down while punting twice with the Wolverines ultimately getting the ball to start its second drive at S-K's 45.
Two plays later, Dike-New Hartford struck first through the air in the postseason against the Cobra defense for the second time in three years. Colin Meester lofted up a 33-yard pass in the wind that Micah Walston, who rushed for 98 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown two years ago in the postseason win over S-K, hauled in for a touchdown catch and run late in the first quarter giving Dike-New Hartford a 7-0 lead.
"This is a tough place to play, but we knew we had to execute and do our part," Meester said. "With the wind howling, we knew early on it was going to be tough to pass. Once we started to pass, we started to have some success."
S-K came within four yards of answering the first-quarter Wolverine touchdown, driving down inside the D-NH 5 before falling short of either a potential tying or go-ahead score setting for a Caden Clarahan's 28-yard field goal cutting the Wolverine lead to 7-3 with 1:46 left in the first half. Meester went back to the air, connecting on a pair of long passes to Walston before pushing forward to pick up a key 4th-and-1 inside the S-K 10-yard-line with under 30 seconds left in the half.
"They (S-K) really piled me up at first," Meester said. "I just kept moving my feet."
Instead of being stopped, Dike-New Hartford struck on the very next play after picking up the first down. Meester closed out a perfect 6-6 passing half by finding Devon Lotts on a nine-yard touchdown pass, giving the Wolverines a 14-3 halftime lead.
"Two years ago, we felt pretty confident going up there to face Dike-New Hartford and they kind of handled us," Jensen said. "We felt confident again going into this match-up. It just comes down to making plays on the field. They made a few more than we did."
After being hurt by the pass in the first half, S-K would be hurt by the run early in the second half as Borcherding took off right through the middle of the Cobra defense almost untouched on the second play out of the locker room, gaining over half of his 149 rushing yards on a touchdown run that put the Wolverines up 21-3. After being hurt by the run, the Cobras went to the air to get a rally going as Sawyer Stout and Cole Kindred connected on a 44-yard pass that moved the Cobras out to the Wolverine 36 in need of at least three scores in the second half.
"That really was a play that got us going," Stout said. "We were able to piece a nice drive together. If we had more time the way things were going, it might have been a lot different."
Stout would connect on eight completions for 145 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown pass to Kale Clarahan on 4th-and-goal cutting Dike-New Hartford's lead to 21-10. Borcherding, however, had an immediate answer taking the opening kickoff return back down the field slipping past defenders on the way to the end zone putting S-K behind by 18 points heading into the fourth quarter.
"It just takes away your momentum," Stout said. "We just tried to tell each other in the huddle that play was over. There's nothing you can do about it. You have to flush it and move on."
Kindred and Stout would finish their final nights in S-K football uniforms connecting on six passes for 136 yards with Kindred making two leaping catches on what proved to be the final scoring drive of the game and of the Cobra football season. Stout would find Brody Greiner on a four-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with Isaac Bruns, another S-K senior, running in the two-point conversion to pull S-K within 10 with 1:50 left.
S-K nearly recovered the ensuing onside kick as Dike-New Hartford regained possession of the ball after an initial bobble popped the football in the air. Needing a stop to have any hope, the Cobras were whistled for their eighth penalty of the game on a third down giving the Wolverines a game-clinching first down with less than a minute left.
"We just ran out of time," Jensen said. "There's a commitment here to get to this level of being in the playoffs each of the last four years. I can remember these seniors showing up to the weight room as freshmen. We knew we had something with them. They were all committed. They kept getting better each year.
"To be on a team that went to the (UNI) Dome and follow that up by making the quarterfinals the next two years, I'm proud of how much they bought in. I hate to see them go out this way, but they stayed committed and kept us together. They've continued to raise the bar and, hopefully, have set the guys coming back for even more success."
— Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.