Garrett Baumhover’s 89-yard touchdown pass to Logan Brosius with under 90 seconds left on the clock proved to be the game-winning score that lifted the Western Dubuque football team to a 40-37 win over Hempstead in Epworth, Sept. 4.
It was an evening full of fireworks at Buchman Field as the fans lucky enough to get tickets to this clash of Dubuque County titans were treated to an exciting game.
The offense controlled the first half of this battle as both teams scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, but Hempstead forced Western Dubuque into the first punt of the contest with 5:14 left in the first half.
That’s when things started to turn the Mustangs’ way. Aidan Dunne, Hempstead’s quarterback, crossed the goal line on a six-yard run to take their first lead of the game at 28-21. With the Bobcats’ defense struggling to find a way to stop the Mustangs’ offense, Western Dubuque’s coaching staff thought they needed to find a way to answer that touchdown with a score of their own.
Unfortunately, they were only able to earn one first down and had to punt the ball back to the Mustangs with 1:55 to go before halftime. Hempstead easily moved the ball downfield and converted the late possession into a 31-21 halftime lead on a 30-yard field goal by Ben Jaeger.
“Our defense struggled to get stops in the first half and I pressed to try to make something happen at the end of the first half that cost us three points going into halftime,” said Justin Penner, head coach of the Bobcats. “But the way our defense grew throughout the game says a lot about our guys. We did give up 31 first-half points and then found a way to only give up six in the second half. That’s a huge stepping stone for our defense and I’m really proud of our kids’ efforts, that’s for sure.”
The Bobcats’ defense stepped up in a big way over the final 24 minutes of play as they forced the Mustangs to punt on their first possession and Tommy DeSollar intercepted a pass in the end zone to keep Western Dubuque in the game.
Jacob Butcher, Spencer Zinn and the Bobcats’ running game emerged on their next drive as they marched 80 yards on 14 plays with Butcher carrying the load for the final two-yards on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it a four-point game, 31-27.
After a three-and-out by Hempstead, the Bobcats started a drive on their 12 but four plays later the Mustangs scored their only six points of the half when Jalen Smith intercepted Baumhover’s pass and ran 25 yards for a touchdown to put Hempstead up 37-27.
With 9:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats still needed a lot of things to go their way to pull out the win. One thing they needed to do was score quickly on their next possession. Feeling the urgency, Baumhover used just 1:37 of clock time to go 82 yards with the final 26 yards coming on a pass to DeSollar, their second touchdown connection of the night.
Now down 37-33 with 7:49 left in the game, the Bobcats needed to keep Hempstead out of the end zone.
The defense did much better than that as they created another three-and-out.
Looking to follow the same blueprint on offense, Baumhover found Brosius wide open in the middle of the field but Brosius failed to come up the catch. Playing behind the sticks, the Bobcats punted the ball away and put the game in their defense’s hands with 5:12 left to play.
Penner knew he’d have to do a better job of handling the clock than he did at the end of the first half if his offense was going to get one last opportunity to win this game.
Improved defensive play and Penner’s proper use of time outs preserved as much time on the clock as he could when Hempstead punted the ball away. It wasn’t going to be an easy chore for the Bobcats as they had the ball at their own 10-yard line with 2:03 left on the clock.
“Our defense held true, that was quite the stop there,” said Penner. “You can’t say enough about the resiliency of our kids.
That was so very much the Bobcat way, that’s for sure.”
After a short gain on a pass to Butcher, Brosius’ number got called again on the play that had been so successful all night long and it worked again. Baumhover dropped back in the pocket and easily hit Brosius in stride around the 25-yard line and then outran everyone to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
“We knew he was a weapon so shame on me for not finding a way to get him the ball more last week, but not only do our kids have to grow but our coaching staff has to own that too and grow from our mistakes and get better,” said Penner about Brosius.
“I think we took a step forward in utilizing him more tonight. He was definitely one of many players who I thought played an outstanding game.”
“We just didn’t give up. We have great fans and they came out to see us win and that’s what really drove us,” said Baumhover, who tied a school record for five touchdown passes in a game.
“We’ve got a great core of receivers and they just win. Our scheme this week was to open (Logan) up because that’s where we thought their weak point was so we just attacked it. He played a hell of a game.”
“That’s just the Bobcat way and that’s how we attack every possession and every down,” said Brosius after the come-from-behind win. “It felt great because I knew that I didn’t let my team down. I dropped a pass on the same play the series before so I knew that I had to come back and make a big play.”
WD’s leaders were: passing — Baumhover 19-of-33, 447 yards, five TDs, one INT; rushing — Jacob Butcher 14-for-45 yards and one TD, Spencer Zinn 15-for-43, Baumhover 3-for-13; receiving — Brosius 7-for-283 yards and three TDs, DeSollar 7-for-135 and two TDs, Dakota Lau 2-for-16, Zinn 2-for-12, Butcher 1-for-1; kickoff returns — Lau 5-for-101, Dominic Frost 1-for-13, Brenden Begle 1-for-12; extra points — Monahan 4-of-6; punting — Baumhover 4-for-43; tackles — Sawyer Nauman 8.5, Lau 7.5, Frost seven, Dakota Hoffman 6.5, Brosius four, Begle 3.5, Evan Surface and Zinn three, DeSollar 2.5, Baumhover tw0, Ryan Cook 1.5, Ethan Blair, Cole Philips and Emerson Lux-Morales one, Chase Anderson, Butcher, Owen Hatcher and Monahan 0.5.