MIDDLETON — In the proverbial battle between David and Goliath, sometimes the more powerful Goliath does in fact win.
Saturday night at Middleton’s Breitenbach Stadium Iowa–Grant’s football team played the role of losing David, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
A poor start against a sensational team ballooned into a 48–0 halftime deficit and ultimately a 54–14 loss to private school powerhouse Fond du Lac Saint Mary’s Springs in a WIAA Division 6 Level 4 playoff game.
The undefeated Ledgers (12–0) scored on all seven of their first half possessions, while the Panthers (9–3) failed to convert on fourth down on their first three drives and compounded their troubles with three-first half turnovers.
Springs junior running back Ike Floyd rushed for 154 yards and four touchdowns on just nine carries, while fellow senior running back Darin Ward scored three times in the first half.
“We knew we needed to get off to a good start, but couldn’t make it happen,” said Iowa–Grant head coach Gary Allen. “Our turnovers obviously hurt.
“Saint Mary’s Springs is very well coached along with being fast and explosive. They had a good game plan and executed it very well.”
Very well indeed. Before Iowa–Grant and its faithful following had even nestled in for Saturday night’s state semifinal game, Springs had a comfortable 20–0 just over 10 minutes into the game.
The Ledgers took the opening kickoff and drove 68 yards in just five plays to take an early 7–0 lead on a Floyd 2-yard run.
I–G answered with a moderately successful 10-play drive, but gained just 29 yards and turned the ball over on downs at the Springs 32-yard line after senior quarterback Derek Peat’s run was stopped short on 4th-and-8.
Three plays later Floyd broke free and raced 39 yards down the sideline right in front of the Panther bench for a 13–0 lead.
Springs snuffed out Iowa–Grant’s fake punt on the ensuing drive, dropping senior Kyle Trevorrow three yards short of the mark after catching a pass from junior punter Cody Rider.
Springs took over at the Panthers’ 41 and turned the short field into 1-yard touchdown run by Ward six plays later.
Peat fumbled on fourth down on Iowa–Grant’s next possession.
Three plays later the speedy Floyd took a draw and went right through the heart of the Panther defense, untouched en route to a 53-yard TD.
Mitch Herron, who converted 6-of-8 extra points in the game, converted the PAT to make it 27–0 with 9:18 left in the second quarter.
“They put a lot of guys on the line of scrimmage and we couldn’t move them,” said Allen. “As the head coach and offensive coordinator it’s my job to find ways to move the ball, get first downs, and score. I didn’t get that done.”
Floyd scored on 4-yard run later in the quarter and with 1:42 left in the half Springs capped a no-huddle drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Evan Henderson to Ward.
A Springs’ sack of Peat forced a fumble and the Ledgers cashed in the Panthers’ third turnover of the half a play later with a Ward 7-yard touchdown run.
As the Panthers entered the locker room for halftime their final game of the season had already been decided, but they weren’t about to quit.
“We talked about ways to move the ball and ways to try and stop them, just like any other half time,” said Allen. “The senior leaders stepped up at half time. It was their leadership that got us going in the second half.”
With 24 minutes left in their prep careers Iowa–Grant captains Ben McFall, Tucker Sarbacker, Trevorrow and Peat addressed the team vowing to play the final half with everything they had.
The Panthers took the second half kickoff and drove 80 yards in six plays and broke up the shutout on Sarbacker’s 9-yard TD run.
They then recovered and onsides kick and scored again 10 plays later on an 11-yard Sarbacker run to kill the running clock and provided one quarter of brightness in an otherwise cloudy day.
“Quitting was never an option for this bunch,” said Allen. “They played as hard as they could the whole time. I am very proud of them.”
Sarbacker finished the game with 145 yards on 24 carries.
“The success we had this season was due to the commitment to hard work our guys gave in the off-season,” added Allen. “That commitment was made possible by the sacrifices and generosity of the parents and families of our guys. We have a great community and it is very much appreciated by me and the coaching staff.”
The Ledgers, who have qualified for the playoffs 11 times in the past 13 years since joining the WIAA will make their seventh appearance at Camp Randall Stadium at 4 p.m. Thursday against Eau Claire Regis (12–0).
WIAA Division 6, Level 4 Playoff
Fond du Lac Springs 54,
(from Saturday, Nov. 10 @ Middleton)
Iowa–Grant 0 0 14 0 — 14
FdL Springs 20 28 0 6 — 54
SMS: Ike Floyd 2 run (Mitch Herron kick)
SMS: Darin Ward 39 run (kick failed)
SMS: Floyd 2 run (Herron kick)
SMS: Floyd 53 run (Herron kick)
SMS: Floyd 4 run (Herron kick)
SMS: Ward 26 pass from Evan Henderson (Herron kick)
SMS: Ward 7 run (Herron kick)
IG: Tucker Sarbacker 9 run (run failed)
IG: Sarbacker 11 run (Dakota Barnes pass from Derek Peat)
SMS: Tyler WIza 5 run (kick failed)
First downs: IG 14, SMS 15. Rushing: IG 49-186, SMS 31-300. Passing Yards: IG 25, SMS 58. Passing: IG 4-9-1, SMS 3-4-0. Fumbles–lost: SMS 1-1, IG 3-2. Penalties-yards: SMS 2-10, IG 1-10.
Rushing: IG: Tucker Sarbacker 24-145; SMS: Ike Floyd 9-154. Passing: IG: Derek Peat 3-8-1, 20; SMS: Evan Henderson 3-4-0, 58. Receiving: IG: Kyle Trevorrow 2-21; SMS: Eric Feldner 2-24.