DENVER — One week after cruising to victory at home against Clayton Ridge, the Wapsie Valley football team had a tough challenge Friday night against traditional rival Denver.
The fourth-ranked in Class A (Associated Press) Warriors had to come from an early deficit, as the Cyclones grabbed an early touchdown. In the end, though, WV fought back to take a 13-6 victory at Sharp Field.
Warrior coach Tony Foster said his team showed that they could play from behind to win.
“Denver, they play really well, they’re physical up front, and they play hard,” Foster said. “To come from behind and keep our composure, we had a lot of our guys go down in the game, a lot of guys came off the bench, and that really helped us. It was gratifying.”
Cyclone head coach Rhett Barrett said his squad played with the attitude and the effort he was looking for.
“Our execution absolutely … stunk,” Barrett said. “We’re in the right spots, we have to execute. We can’t give up big plays, we can’t have a thousand yards of penalties, we can’t turn the ball over when we’re marching it down the field. Those are the things we have to (improve on).”
Everything started well for Denver (0-2). After Wapsie (2-0) lost 11 yards on its first three plays, the Cyclones took over on the Warrior 36. The home team just needed three plays to find paydirt, with Nate Eggena capping the drive with a 16-yard scoring run, putting Denver up 6-0 after the extra-point kick missed the mark.
“Our execution was good there,” Barrett said of the scoring play. “Why we struggled in the second, third quarter was because we didn’t execute. We’ve got to get better at that.”
Foster said his defense wasn’t able to contain Eggena after he broke an initial tackle.
“That’s why you play teams like Denver,” he said, “so you can get better. We need to get better in a lot of areas, and they helped us get better tonight.”
The teams traded punts on each of their ensuing possessions, and then as Wapsie was getting well into Denver territory, quarterback Kobe Risse made his only mistake of the game. While trying to find Blade Bellis, Cyclone defensive back Stratton Ferson picked it off at the Denver 29-yard line.
The Cyclones then were able to drive to the Warrior 3 before a holding call and a tackle for loss pushed them back to the 16. On the final play of the first quarter, Isaac Besh’s pass intended for Colton Reiter fell incomplete.
Following the play, a few players on both teams started pushing and shoving. As a result, both teams were assessed offsetting personal-foul and unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties. Wapsie’s Kiks Rosengarten and Denver’s Brennen Graber were ejected due to the melee.
“We wish it hadn’t happened,” said Foster, the Warrior coach. “The referees handled it well.”
After a false-start penalty to begin the second quarter, Ferson attempted a 37-yard field goal, but the kick fell well short of the end zone, giving the ball to Wapsie at the 20. The Warriors went three-and-out, followed by an invalid fair-catch penalty for Denver, and they then failed to move the sticks.
In Wapsie’s next possession, which started on their own 24, they faced a third-and-26 from their own 35. Risse then connected with Brock Beesecker for a 61-yard pass before getting tackled at the Cyclone 4, and the officials added a half-the-distance horse-collar tackle penalty.
On the very next play, Trevor Sauerbrei punched it in from the 2 for the score with 4:59 left before intermission. The extra point gave the Warriors the 7-6 lead.
Foster said the Warriors were simply trying to find some plays to string out to get momentum into their favor.
“We finally got a little bit of a drive going there,” he said. “You try to find some things that work, and then you try to find things to put a drive together. We got that going a little bit in the second half, too.”
In the third quarter, Denver started with a three-and-out, and then Wapsie responded with a four-play, 64-yard drive with the capper being a 47-yard pitch-and-catch from Risse to Blayde Bellis for the score. The PAT went wide to keep the score at 13-6 with 8:43 left in the penultimate period.
“The coaches called a great play,” Foster said of the TD. “It was a (run-pass-option) read; it was a give or pass, and he went with the deep ball, and it was there.”
Barrett said both of the long plays showed how young the Cyclone secondary is.
“We have a lot of sophomores rolling around out there,” he said. “There’s some confusion out there. We have a junior who just came out this year. We’ve got to shore that up, but we can’t give up big plays.
“If you make them drive it down the field, we will stop them, but we cannot give up a 47-yarder or whatever the other one was. We have to clean that up.”
Denver had chances to possibly tie the game in the fourth quarter. Following a punt that went into the end zone, the Cyclones were able to get a first-and-goal at the 10 after 12 plays behind Eggena’s running and two pass plays from Besh to Reiter. However, Besh got sacked for a 6-yard loss, and after a 3-yard run by Eggenna, Ferson’s 30-yard attempt flew wide right.
After forcing a fumble around their 20, the Cyclones drove to the Warrior 22 before Eggenna coughed up the football, recovered by Brendon Brown to kill the drive. After that, Wapsie milked the clock dry.
Risse was 9-17 passing for 210 yards, unofficially, with a touchdown and an interception. Bellis caught four balls for 78 yards and a score, while Tyler Ott also had four grabs for 54 yards, and Beesecker had the 61-yard reception.
Sauerbrei ran 21 times for 89 yards and a TD, while Beesecker had a 5-yard carry, and Risse and three totes for minus-11 yards.
For the Cyclones, Besh was 8-15 for 85 yards and also carried 11 times for 43 yards. Eggena led the rushing attack with 18 for 83 yards and a score to go with three receptions for 17 yards, while Reiter had six runs for 43 yards and five grabs for 68 yards. Braydon Powers was credited for two runs and lost three yards.
Next up for the Warriors is a trip to Traer for a match-up with North Tama, the No. 7 team in Class A. Foster said his squad needed the win at Denver.
“Believe me, North Tama is a very fine football team,” he said. “We needed to be tested, and we were tested, and we were fortunate to win the game.
“We need to get everybody healthy and come up with a good plan for North Tama.”
Meanwhile, the Cyclones travel to State Center to face West Marshall. Barrett said his team’s progressing considering its youth.
“We’ve just got to fix some things up front offensively,” he said. “I think you have, maybe, too much (mistakes), I think our linemen are sometimes confused as to who to go with and what to do, so we’re going to fix that this week, and we’re going to simplify things, do what we do well, and do it right.”