Senior Wildcat running back Zach Digman finds a hole up the middle in their game against Cascade.

Maquoketa Valley started their football season with back to back losses. Their third game of the year against East Buchanan Sept. 11 went differently. Defense was the story as this game was scoreless through three quarters, but some late-game heroics gave the Wildcats an 8-0 victory.

During Maquoketa Valley’s final drive, senior quarterback Parker Sternhagen punched in a rushing touchdown with 28 seconds left.

“It was awesome to see our kids stay mentally and physically locked in, so we could finish that one off and get our first win,” coach Trevor Arnold said.

The Wildcat’s final drive was 15 plays and Arnold said Sternhagen made five plays with his feet that extended the play or were designed runs. Senior Owen Mensen caught the two-point conversion to seal the 8-0 win.

“He (Sternhagen) is a player every team needs that makes everyone else better,” Arnold said. “He is liked by all his teammates, so it allows him to lead. Every successful team needs their quarterback to be a leader. Sometimes he drives me nuts as a coach because we like structure, but sometimes he just makes plays, and in a way, that makes him harder to defend.”

Typically, an extra point attempt follows a touchdown in football, but Arnold carries a modern approach following touchdowns.

“Two-point conversions are worth more than one,” Arnold said. “As a coach, I haven’t attempted an extra point or field goal since 2011. In that time frame, we are well over 65% going for two. To me, that is a no brainer.”

Big plays on the defensive side of the ball kept the Wildcats energized. The defense as a unit had 13 tackles for loss, and came away with two key turnovers. Sternhagen and senior Andrew Kloser both recovered fumbles to kill East Buchanan drives.

“We were consistent in our effort,” Arnold said. “We had very few missed gap assignments and we tackled extremely well. That was an area we struggled week one and two. We also had our linebackers play like they were capable of (playing).”

A few underclassmen received some recognition from their coach.

“I want to point out sophomore Lucas Orcutt and freshman Aidan Salow,” Arnold said. “Orcutt did not play any varsity as a ninth-grader and Aidan is a ninth-grader. Both of those guys played with energy and effort that brought the entire team’s effort and energy up.”

Orcutt and Salow had three tackles for loss. Orcutt also tallied two sacks. Senior Tim Harmon and Sternhagen added 2.5 tackles for loss. Sternhagen had 201 total yards on offense and the only touchdown of the game. Mensen had four catches for 69 yards and the two-point conversion.

Maquoketa Valley hosts North Linn Friday, Sept. 18. The Lynx are 1-2 on the season and averages 18.7 points per game.