By Sam Parsons
A game that saw the Oskaloosa faithful go through wave after wave of different emotions ended in heartbreak as the Indians lost in last-second fashion to the Ottumwa Bulldogs on Friday.
The game began with the two teams trading the ball on their opening possessions. Osky opted to try a fake punt on a 4th and 5 situation and they were unsuccessful, but Ottumwa fumbled the ball back to the Indians two plays later.
In their second offensive drive, the Indians picked up a pair of first downs to move deep into Ottumwa territory. But in the red zone, the offense stalled, and on 4th and 3 inside the 10 yard line, opted to go for it again. This time, sophomore QB Kayne Boender faced pressure from the interior and attempted a desperation pass that resulted in a 90+ yard pick-six from Brennan Flattery of the Bulldogs. A good extra point made it 7-0 Bulldogs, where it remained for the rest of the quarter.
At the start of the 2nd, Oskaloosa was in the midst of their third offensive drive, which again resulted in a 4th down decision to go for it; this time, on 4th and 5. In a similar play to the previous 4th down, Boender tried to get rid of the ball before pressure arrived and it was once again Flattery who was in the right place at the right time for Ottumwa. This interception wasn’t returned for a touchdown, but the Bulldogs moved the ball 62 yards in 6 plays after taking over, with a 29 yard touchdown pass from Matthew Mitchell to Javen Rominger putting the Bulldogs up 14-0. The Mitchell-to-Rominger connection was highly prolific for the Bulldogs on Friday night, and this was only the first taste.
The Indians, however, would not give up easily. Their next drive started with friendly field position, on Ottumwa’s 46, and Boender guided the offense down the Bulldogs’ half of the field to set up a 3rd and goal from the 4 yard line. The Indians dialed up a specialty play with sophomore RB AJ Walker lining up in the wildcat, taking the snap, and running a boot to the left, leading to him throwing his first pass of the season into the end zone, where senior Wyatt Grubb was waiting for the touchdown reception. Sophomore Linus Morrison tacked on the PAT and made it 14-7.
The second quarter fireworks continued on Ottumwa’s next possession. It took them only 2 minutes to drive the ball 80 yards down the field in 5 plays. A 28 yard pass to Rominger put the Bulldogs on the 4 yard line, where senior Cameron Manary punched it in to make it 21-7 with about 3:50 left in the first half.
And yet…the scoring was still not over in the quarter. Osky and Ottumwa traded punts and the Indians got the ball on their own 25 with 1:40 to go and no timeouts. Boender found his groove again, dialing up sideline passes to the likes of Max Roach, Heavon Knox, and Wyatt Grubb to put the Indians in Bulldog territory in the final seconds of the half. With about 8 seconds left, Boender escaped pressure and threw on the run to Jaden DeRonde, who was wide open down the sideline, and he hauled it in for a 31 yard touchdown with 0.2 seconds left in the half. The score put the Indians back in the game, 21-14 at halftime.
The second half was defined by Ottumwa penalties. Copious amounts of pre-snap motion led to several illegal shift penalties, and 3 different touchdown plays were all called back for holding. The Bulldogs did still find the end zone in the half on their first drive: a 9 yard run from Mitchell put the Bulldogs up 27-14 early in the 3rd quarter.
But the Indians offense continued to move and groove for much of the second half. Their second offensive drive of the half, which came after an Ottumwa 3-and-out, was 10 plays long and went 56 yards, culminating in a 21 yard touchdown hookup between Boender and Max Roach. Morrison again added a successful extra point to make it 27-21, which is where the score remained entering the 4th quarter.
More penalties doomed Ottumwa’s offense (the team finished with 17 penalties for 145 yards) early in the 4th, paving the way for Osky to take the lead. In the early part of the quarter, the Indians were once again able to trek down the field with the help of the passing game led by Boender and they finished their drive with a 7 yard passing connection from Boender to Wyatt Grubb. Morrison added the PAT to finish 4/4 on the day, and the Indians had their first lead of the entire game, 28-27 with under 8 minutes to go.
The Bulldogs started their next offensive drive with a lot of promise. They were able to pick up 3 first downs and chewed off much of the clock, but suddenly faced a 4th and short in Osky territory with about 1:30 left. After calling a timeout, the Indians clamped down and stonewalled Cameron Manary for a loss.
The game looked to be in Osky’s hands, but Ottumwa still had 2 timeouts remaining.
Oskaloosa opted to run the ball on 3 consecutive plays to wind the clock down as much as possible. The 3 run plays gained minimal yardage, leaving the Indians with 4th and long with about 30 seconds left, at which point Ottumwa had no timeouts remaining. The Bulldogs fair-caught Parker Lewis’ punt with 25 seconds remaining on their own 45 yard line.
At this point in the game, the Bulldogs had only completed 6 passes on the night; 5 of them had gone to Javen Rominger for 85 yards (including a touchdown). In desperate times, the Bulldogs turned to their #1 guy on back-to-back plays, and Rominger managed to pop open over the top on back-to-back deep passes. Mitchell put the ball where it needed to be both times, putting the Bulldogs on the doorstep with under 5 seconds left. After a long stoppage of play devoted to sorting out an illegal shift penalty, the Bulldogs were able to set up their field goal unit in the final seconds, and Joel Hallgren did the rest, knocking a 23 yard field goal through the uprights as the clock expired, winning the game for Ottumwa, 30-28.
The Indians (2-2) will travel to Clear Creek-Amana this Friday to open their district schedule.