IOWA CITY– From the start it was apparent it would be a hard-fought battle and the final score would be close as the West High Trojans faced the Bulldogs of Bettendorf Monday, Nov. 4, in a Class 4A second round playoff game on Trojan Field.
The Bulldogs ended the Trojans’ season with a 27-24 win in overtime.
West’s first drive went three and out, as did the Bulldog’s first effort. With neither side gaining, nor giving any ground, the first quarter ended scoreless. With just under three minutes left in the half, Micah Kelsay broke through on a 9-yard run to score. Connor Gordon’s kick flew straight and true and West had the 7-0 lead. The Trojans forced the Bulldogs to punt away their next possession. However, the dogs recovered a fumble on the return, putting them in position to score. Bettendorf’s Cyle Cox did just that, running the ball in for the touchdown. A good kick tied the game with a minute to go in the first half.
Once again the West High crew pounded the ball downfield quickly. The half ended on a Nate Boland to Tyler Eads pass in the end zone, which was knocked away.
The second half started out on a sour note for the Trojans, who kicked-off to the Bulldogs only to watch them score on their first play with a 66-yard pass for a touchdown. With the good kick, the dogs were up 14-7.
The Bulldogs bit again with just over seven minutes left in the quarter, scoring on a 36-yard pass. Again their kicker hit his marks and Bettendorf had a 21-7 lead.
With the season and a shot at the state championship on the line, the Trojans regrouped and mounted an attack culminating in Kelsay running nearly 20 yards to score at the 4:06 mark. Gordon’s kick sailed through just fine and the gap was narrowed to 21-14. The quarter ended with the Trojans taking over on downs with six seconds to go. As the fourth quarter began, West found itself looking at fourth down and 23 yards to go.
Boland lobbed a 39-yard pass to Eads in the end zone, this time unencumbered, and the Trojans were down only one point. Gordon again did his job well, knotting the game 21-21 with two minutes remaining in regulation play.
After shutting down a Bulldog drive, the Trojans got the ball back with 1:02 on the clock and two time-outs left in coach Brian Sauser’s pocket.
A one-minute drive put West outside field goal range around the 40-yard line. But, after a timeout, Gordon made an unsuccessful attempt at the kick, sending the game into overtime.
West’s drive was denied, forcing another field goal attempt, this one successful by Gordon and giving the Trojans a 24-21 lead.
And then, it happened. A 9-yard pass to a Bulldog in the house was completed, the referees’ arms shot up to signal the touchdown and the Bettendorf crowd went nuts.
As the Bulldogs celebrated, Trojans fell silent in shock. Anthony Batie slammed his helmet down and dropped to a squatting position fighting back tears.
Sauser found it difficult to describe the impact of the loss. “It’s tough to put it into words,” Sauser said, “because you’re talking about the end of careers. Obviously, as a coach, you feel terrible. You wish you could’ve done more for your seniors. It’s an unbelievable bunch of kids, and they’ve done the nine months and 12 months. You do all that stuff to give yourself the opportunity to be in games like this. And careers come down to one or two plays like this.”
The Trojans will lose 27 seniors including Boland. “The kid’s an unbelievable football player, an unbelievable quarterback, best quarterback in the state of Iowa, I’ve said that all along, and I don’t think he did anything tonight to disprove that,” Sauser said of Boland.
Also hanging up the helmet for the last time are Batie, Ryan Swartzendruber, Brock Hatzky, Matt Bruegge, Ben Mirr, Garett Blair, Jacob Verry, Austin Stumpf, Devin Raffensperger, Clay Moel, David Millmeyer, McKinley Battle, Alex Bradshaw, Tyler Hebl, Kelsay, Zenaido Quintero, Aydan Wynos, Devaughn McCullough, Crosby Hedden, Zak Ranshaw, Isaac Moel, Jackson Voight, Colton Haight, Joey Farinelli, Ivan Perez and Isadore Nagueza.
“We get down but we don’t give up,” Sauser said. “I was proud of the way we came back and ran the football. We got down 21-14 and we ran the football… I could really feel that tide turning. We just came up short.” The Trojans end on a 9-2 record and were ranked fifth in the state in Class 4A. The Bulldogs, 10th-ranked, improved to 9-2 and took on Pleasant Valley in a quarterfinal round game Friday, Nov. 8.