Yellow Jackets outlast Bulldogs in thriller
If the Iota Bulldogs were supposed to be blown out by the Iowa Yellow Jackets, they didn't get the memo.
While the final scoreboard read 34-20 in favor of the Yellow Jackets, it was only due to two late touchdowns that Iowa pulled away.
“You have to tip your hat to Iota, they came out the first game of district and played really hard, really physical,” said Sean Richard, coach of the Yellow Jackets.
That has been the case for Iowa all year, young players stepped up big when they needed it.
“This is their first district game on the road,” said Richard. “We had some young kids really step up tonight.
“That kid (Darius Janice) who had the interception and punt return was only a sophomore.”
For Iowa (6-0, 1-0 in district 4-3A), it was another chapter in their book. For Iota (0-6, 0-1), it was a different book altogether.
“We played very well tonight,” said Bulldogs coach Neal Legé. “We ran the ball well. We blocked well. We just gave up a couple of big plays.
“I'm really proud of my guys. They played their hearts out and just came up short in the end. We were hoping to get the W and against Iowa would have been great.
"We have Westlake next week and Jennings after that so it doesn't get any easier, but if we can get this effort, we can compete."
Iota's improvement on the field finally began netting results, leading to a back and forth game that at one point saw Iota draw within a point late of Iowa.
That is when the big plays hurt Iota most.
“Unfortunately, when you make a mistake, those guys make you pay,” said Legé. “They had a big run where we missed an assignment and turned third-and-long into a big play.
"I thought we played outstanding defensively, it was just one or two big plays."
The Bulldogs spent the entire game playing catch-up, and, in the fourth quarter, Iota almost did. But it all started in the first quarter.
On their first possession, Iowa's Chaz Key's 10-yard touchdown run with 8:06 remaining in the quarter capped off a nine-play, 59-yard drive. Add on an extra point from Jevon Perry, Iowa found itself up seven points on the road.
Then, in the second quarter, things would begin getting interesting.
Iowa would go up 14-0 with 10:15 remaining in the second quarter after Key scored on a big 31-yard touchdown run and Perry kicked the extra point. The six-play, 67-yard drive would see Koby Buquet get two completed passes to Hunter Roussell for 12 yards, including a third-and-8 conversion.
But Iota began finding its legs and would answer with a scoring drive of its own. A 12-play, 65 yard drive was capped off by Adam Ardoin from 9 yards out. The Bulldogs' extra point attempt was blocked, but Iota had pulled back within one possession of Iowa.
The score would end up 14-6 at the half with Iowa holding onto the lead and the grip would get tighter before Iowa could loosen the reigns.
In the fourth quarter, Janice's 48-yard punt return with 9:56 remaining in the quarter set up Key to score from 5 yards out two plays later. The short two-play, 9 yard drive as well as Perry's extra point, gave Iowa a bigger lead and turned the Yellow Jackets lead into two possessions.
But, on its next drive, Iota would again answer.
After two incomplete passes on first and second downs, Iota rattled off three runs for big gains. First came Ardoin's 36 yard run on third-and-10; then it was Nick Sloane running 11 yards. Finally Tim Lunson ran for a touchdown from 18 yards out with 8:14 remaining. Despite a failed two-point conversion attempt, Iota was in striking distance at 21-12 once again.
And their the score would stay for what seemed like quite a long time, finally with 2:12 remaining, Iota found the end zone again. A 51-yard drive that took eight plays was capped by Lunson's feet, which ran for 30 yards on the four final plays including a 2-yard touchdown run. Ardoin found the end zone on the two point conversion and the score landed at 21-20 Iowa.
Iota, which converted an onside kick in the second quarter successfully that led to no points looked to repeat success, but the Yellow Jackets recovered at their own 43-yard line. Three plays later, Key picked up his fourth touchdown from 55 yards out. With 1:47 remaining, Iowa was up 27-20 and after a failed two-point conversion, the Bulldogs still had a chance. Iowa, however, knew what was coming, applying major pressure on Lunson. The Bulldogs quarterback was forced to scramble for 8 yards and option pitch the ball to Ardoin, who gained four yards and a Bulldogs first down. Iota was running out of time and Lunson's pass fell into Janice's arms at the Iota 41-yard line and took the interception back for a touchdown.
The Yellow Jackets were led by Key's four touchdowns. He had 21 carries for 165 yards. Iowa's quarterbacks Koby Buquet and Kendrick LeJeune combined for 4-7 for 18 yards.
Iota's Ardoin and Sloane had a great night as well. Ardoin had a touchdown on 27 carries for 145 yards, Sloane added 13 carries for 65 yards.
“Adam ran his butt off tonight and Nick did too,” said Legé. “They ran well.
"Our offense is chugging along and when we drew within 21-20, we were competing."
Lunson went 1-7 in the air for 13 yards and an interception. He added 11 carries for 54 yards on the ground.