By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– With apologies to Frank Sinatra, that’s life. You’re riding high on Monday only to be shot down on Friday.
The West High Trojan football season came to a crashing end Friday night, Nov. 4, at the hands of the Bettendorf Bulldogs in a Class 4A quarterfinal. A win would have sent Coach Brian Sauser’s crew to the UNI-Dome.
The week opened on a high note as the Trojans exacted revenge upon the North Scott Lancers Monday night in Eldridge. The Lancers knocked out West last year in the first round. This time, West dominated in a second round bout, leading 21-0 after the first quarter on its way to the 38-7 win.
Against the Bulldogs Friday, a 10-7 halftime deficit ballooned and the Trojans had no answer for the Bettendorf defense in a 45-13 loss.
“We knew going in our biggest challenge was going to be their defensive front,” Sauser said after the game. “They’re an outstanding defensive football team and they showed that. We did a nice job coming out, moved the ball down and scored; you know, if we could’ve maintained that level, it could’ve been a different outcome.” But, he continued, “they won the battle on both sides of the ball and they deserved to win.”
At the coin toss, West opted to receive, to open the game on a drive with plenty of drama. First, a bad snap sent quarterback Charles Rogers scrambling for the ball, then scrambling for yardage. The drive stalled with fourth down and one on the Bulldogs’ 43-yard-line. After a West time-out, the Trojans surged forward for first and 10 at the 38. West scored on a Rogers to Richard Bryant pass and Alex Troester’s point-after kick gave West a 7-0 lead.
It looked like the night was going to go the Trojans’ way as their kick-off to the Bulldogs was fumbled with a West recovery. But a Bulldog interception, the first of three against Rogers, stopped the drive quickly. The ‘Dogs ran in a touchdown soon after to tie with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, a Bettendorf drive was stopped short, forcing the Bulldogs into a 26-yard field goal, and giving the visitors a 10-7 lead. Trench warfare ensued as both sides launched offensives that went nowhere. A huge sack on Rogers in the final minute of the half put the Trojans in a fourth down and 25-to-go situation. As the half ended, the three-point deficit held firm.
Bettendorf’s opening drive of the second half extended the lead on an 8-yard touchdown run. With 1:08 left in the period, Bettendorf struck again to go up 24-7.
Poor field position dogged the Trojans all night, as did the relentless Bettendorf defense. A long punt return by Bettendorf set the table for another touchdown, and a 31-7 lead at the start of the final 12 minutes. A short run after taking the ball over on downs put Bettendorf in the end zone again for a 38-7 lead.
West mounted another offensive, but an interception was ran 50 yards for a touchdown. The successful PAT made it 45-7 and the continuous clock was activated with 4:44 left in West’s season. The Trojans started out on their own 34 yard line, and Rogers’ third interception came on the first play. But, a Bettendorf fumble gave the ball back to the Trojans on the Bulldogs’ 30 yard line. Rogers hit Jeremy Morgan in the end zone with a 30-yard pass to give West its second and last touchdown of the night, and returning the clock to normal. The Trojans attempted a two-point play, which went sour.
“Our kids fought and competed hard, but we got beat by a better football team. In the first half, we did some nice things and it was 10-7 at half. In the second half they came out in another gear and we never matched that. They’re gonna play that smash mouth football and you’d better stop them or you’re gonna be in for it all night,” Sauser concluded.
West finished the season at 9-3, while Bettendorf improved to 11-1.