PREP FOOTBALL: Lions claw past OrabsSHELDON, Iowa — Scoring two second-half touchdowns and running the ball 63 times for 254 yards Friday night, Central Lyon/George-Little Rock earned a hard-fought 21-7 victory over Sheldon in a key Iowa Class 2A, District 1 high school football game at Orabs Stadium.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
SHELDON, Iowa — Scoring two second-half touchdowns and running the ball 63 times for 254 yards Friday night, Central Lyon/George-Little Rock earned a hard-fought 21-7 victory over Sheldon in a key Iowa Class 2A, District 1 high school football game at Orabs Stadium.
The victory vaults the Lions (6-2, 4-1) back into the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“After not getting to play in the post-season for the last two seasons, this is redemption for us,” declared a very happy Toby Lorenzen, CL/G-LR’s veteran head coach, after the well-played contest. “We’ve been a good second half team all season and we were able to play solid all-around football again in both the third and fourth quarters to pull ahead of a very good Sheldon team.”
After the two tradition-rich rivals played to a 7-7 standstill in a hard-hitting first half, the Lions scored twice after intermission — the first time on one big 75-yard play, and the second on a clock-chewing, 15-play, 76-yard drive.
In a quick turn of events early in the third quarter, the Lions capitalized on an opportunity — after the Orabs missed on a golden chance just prior to CL/G-LR’s quick strike.
Sheldon forced a fumble on the Lions’ first offensive play of the second half, with the aggressive Cody Hatting (four tackles, eight assists, one tackle for a loss) recovering the loose football at CL/G-LR’s 37-yard line.
But, the Orabs, who pieced together a pair of strong drives in the first half, were unable take advantage of their favorable field position, as they were stopped — after seven plays and a penalty — at the 25-yard stripe.
With 9:05 showing on the third-quarter clock, CL/G-LR senior quarterback Ross Ackerman, who sat out most of the second quarter after being injured on a running play, dropped back to pass and floated a high throw to the athletic Eric Schilling along the left sideline.
Schilling leaped up and won a jump ball against a Sheldon defender at the Orabs’ 40-yard line and then broke a pair of potential tackles and kept his balance all the way to the end zone, completing a 75-yard touchdown pass, which gave the Lions a 13-7 advantage with 8:53 left.
“He can make plays like that,” Lorenzen said about Schilling. “Ross made a great throw and after catching the ball, Eric showed his athleticism by taking it all the way for a touchdown.”
Those exciting 12 seconds proved to be the turning point in what had been a very evenly-played, competitive contest.
“Wasn’t that a great, hard-hitting high school football game,” exclaimed Sheldon head coach Matt Meendering. “They made a big play right after they stopped us when we had a great chance to get something done. That sequence was what really changed the game.”
After Schilling’s TD play, CL/G-LR’s Terron Geerdes booted his second extra-point kick, making the score 14-7.
With momentum on its side, the Lions’ defense held the Orabs again, but were unable to mount a drive against a stubborn Sheldon defense, which had stymied the visitors most of the first half.
Then on Sheldon’s next possession, Orabs’ junior quarterback Chris Balster (16 carries, 89 yards) ripped off a 46-yard run, moving the ball from the Sheldon 25 to the Lions’ 29.
“Chris has quick feet and ran the ball hard, getting a lot of big gainers for us,” said Meendering of his versatile signal-caller. “But, then we fumbled on the next play, which ended another one of our drives.”
Trenton Enger (two solo tackles, two assists, two sacks) recovered the fumble for the Lions, who then fed the ball repeatedly to junior running back Josh Hunt (37 carries, 162 yards) for positive yardage.
But after Ackermann completed a seven-yard pass to Schilling (two catches for 82 yards) for a Lions’ first down at their own 47, Sheldon’s Matt Dykstra (six tackles, four assists, fumble recovery) came up with an interception for the Orabs off a deflected pass.
But starting at their 48-yard line, Sheldon moved backwards as Balster — who had gained 106 yards on the ground before this series — was sacked three times in a row.
After Jarod DeBey tackled Balster for a loss on a running play, Luke Grooters and Enger recorded back-to-back sacks to force Sheldon into a fourth-and-33 situation as the fourth quarter began.
Taking over at their own 24-yard line, the Lions marched 76 yards on 15 plays — with Hunt carrying 11 times — as Geerdes (18 carries, 57 yards, five solo tackles, seven assists, one sack) bulled in for the touchdown from a yard out with 4:42 left in the game.
Geerdes, who converted a key first down with a power spin at the Sheldon 32-yard line to keep the drive alive, then kicked his third PAT, closing out the game’s scoring at 21-7.
“I loved that long, drive on the ground,” praised Lorenzen about his offensive line, who was playing without two-year starting right guard Eric Clasen. “We missed Eric, but we moved Ned Knobloch to center and our usual center Daren Winkowitsch moved over to right guard. But, what a job our line did on that drive — we imposed our will with that march which took up most of the fourth quarter.”
The Orabs did move the ball on the next series as Balster (team-high 13 total tackles) completed a seven-yard pass to Joe Kuiper and one for the same distance to Dykstra for a Sheldon first down.
But the Lions held at midfield and effectively ran out the clock to claim the victory.
Balster, Hunt score first-half rushing TDs
After a scoreless first quarter in which field position favored Sheldon, the Orabs capitalized on a fumble recovery by Dykstra at midfield and Balster took to the ground and put his team into the end zone first.
Starting at the Orabs’ 48-yard stripe, Balster ripped off runs of 11, 10 and 11 yards, respectively on three consecutive keepers, putting the ball just inside the Lions’ 20-yard stripe.
Then after a six-yard scamper — on the option-pitch — by Hunter McDonald — Balster bolted 14 yards, busting a pair of tackles, for the game’s first touchdown with 6:58 to play in the second quarter.
Zach Kleinwolterink was perfect on the PAT kick and Sheldon held the momentum and a 7-0 lead.
The Lions, however, answered with a 12-play, 57-yard drive of their own — which started with a 30-yard kick return by Hunt.
With junior quarterback Jesse Markus filling in for Ackerman, CL/G-LR marched down the field with Hunt’s seven-yard touchdown burst over left guard, capping the drive.
Markus started the march with an impressive 18-yard run on the option.
“Jesse really did a nice job in there,” praised Lorenzen. “Ross was shaken up a bit, so we thought we would go with Markus and see if we could change the pace a little, which he helped us do.”
But then after intermission, Ackermann returned and fired his game-changing touchdown bomb to Schilling and the Orabs were playing from behind the rest of the night.
“I am so proud of our guys, they battled hard for four quarters,” summed up Meendering. “We just got beat by a very good football team.”
Sheldon threatened to score just before halftime when McDonald broke loose on a 27-yard pass play, putting the Orabs at CL/G-LR’s 30-yard line.
The Orabs (6-3) are idle until the playoffs begin Oct. 26.
CL/G-LR, which could get a home playoff game, travels to Orange City for a Friday clash with Unity Christian.
CL/G-LR 0 7 7 7 — 21
Sheldon 0 7 0 0 — 7