Western Dubuque might have scored first and last, but it was the 19 straight scored by Decorah in between those two touchdowns that allowed the Vikings a hard-fought 19-14 win over the Bobcats in their homecoming game at Buchman Field, Oct. 1.
“We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half. We were running the ball well, but once we got into third and long they were awfully good at getting after our quarterback and we weren’t very good with protecting him tonight,” said Justin Penner, head coach. “I should have moved the pocket a lot earlier. That paid off when we did that in the second half. Unfortunately, it was a pretty frustrating night.”
The Bobcats did the best they could to try to stay and move the ball fairly easily their first two possessions, but it wasn’t until the third time that things started to click. The defense was doing their bend don’t break thing and forced Decorah to punt the ball away from their own 40.
With 1:58 left in the opening quarter, the Bobcats started their third drive of the game at their own 15-yard line. Two of their first three plays were passes as Jack Clemens hit Nick Bryant for a first down and then Andrew Oltmanns to quickly move the ball to their 38-yard line. The running game took over from there as Grant Glausser and Spencer Zinn combined to move the ball into Viking territory at the 28. Clemens was sacked back to the 35-yard line, and two carries by Zinn made it fourth-and-one from the 19. Once again it was Zinn who earned the first down to keep the drive going. Two plays later, Clemens went to Tucker Nauman on a tight end slant for a 23-yard touchdown pass that put the Bobcats up 6-0. Caden Abresch’s kick for extra point was good and it was 7-0 home team in their homecoming game.
Zach Jermier was back deep to return the kick for Decorah and return the kick he did racing down the far sideline all the way to the Bobcats’ 16-yard line. Two plays later, the Vikings were celebrating a touchdown after Keenan Tyler hooked up with Joseph Bockman on a 14-yard scoring strike. Brody Young’s kick tied the game at 7-7 with 8:27 left in the opening half.
After a flag on the kickoff return, the Bobcats started another drive deep in their own territory. Three straight runs by Zinn and the Bobcats went from the six to the 36. Two carries by Glausser and they were on the other side of midfield at the Vikings’ 45. That’s were things started to turn and the offensive problems began as they fell victim to chasing down and distance the rest of the drive and the game. After Caleb Klein was held to no gain on first down, the offensive line was flagged for a false start making it second and 15. Facing third and nine after Zinn carried the ball for six yards, Clemens was again sacked forcing the Bobcats to kick the ball away on fourth and 15 from the 50. Nauman’s punt was downed at the 11-yard line with 5:14 on the clock.
The Vikings’ pro-set offense went back to work on a clock management friendly 12-play drive that ended when Tyler found Jacob Pipho for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left in the first half. Klein got free around the corner to block the extra point to keep the score 13-7 at halftime.
The Bobcat defense forced a three and out on the opening possession of the second half and a punt return by Dominic Frost gave Western Dubuque first down at their own 25. On the second play of the drive, Clemens was picked off by Bockman giving the Vikings the ball at the Bobcats’ 32.
The defense stiffened and all Decorah could get out of this golden opportunity was a Young 35-yard field goal to extend their lead to 16-7 with 6:51 left in the third quarter.
The Vikings increased their lead to 12 points, 19-7, when Young booted a 32-yard field goal with under nine minutes to play.
Knowing it was now or never, the Bobcats’ offense got moving. A 15-yard pass to Daviyon Gaston gave them life, but it was Zinn’s 17-yard run on fourth-and-six that kept the drive going. Zinn capped off the drive when he bulled his way into the end zone on a five-yard run to cut into the Vikings lead to 19-14 with 5:16 left in the game.
Now it was the defense’s turn to stop the Vikings and give the Bobcats a chance to win. But the Vikings were able to run over five minutes off the clock before they turned the ball over on downs at the Bobcats’ 23. With 13.8 seconds to play, Clemens hit Gaston on the sidelines for a 15-yard gain. A quick nine-yard pass to Oltmanns gave the homecoming crowd hope as the Bobcats moved into Viking territory, at the 46, with 4.9 seconds to play. The Bobcats managed to run two plays, but were unable to get into the end zone.
“The kids kept battling. They kept believing in each other that they were going to win this football game. It wasn’t an effort thing, it was a detail thing. The mistakes we made were awfully frustrating,” said Penner. “We took away a lot of learning experiences tonight.”
With the loss, the Bobcats lose pace with the front runners in Class 4A District 2 at 3-3 for the season, 1-1 in the district. Decorah improves to 4-2, 2-0 in the district.
The Bobcats will travel to Waterloo, Oct. 8, to battle Waterloo East Trojans who are 1-5 for the season and 0-2 in district play. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.
WD’s leaders were: passing — Clemens 13-of-20 for 154 yards, one interception and one TD; rushing — Zinn 26-for-134 yards and one TD, Grant Glausser 11-for-57; receiving — Oltmanns 6-for-66 yards, Daviyon Gaston 3-for-40, Nauman 1-for-24 and a TD, Zinn 1-for-14 and Bryant 2-for-10; extra points — Caden Abresch 2-for-2; punting — Nauman 4-for-157 yards; kick-off returns — Bryant 3-for-57 yards and Chase Anderson 1-for-11.
No other stats were available at press time.