(Above) Zeke Nelson celebrates in the endzone after scoring a TD following a 30-yard pass completion.
by Marianne Gasaway
The Lions are heading into the playoffs Friday night with confidence, thanks to 56-40 victory over Roland-Story in their final regular season game. Add to that a rivalry matchup with neighboring Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, and Coach Jared DeVries says his team is fired up and ready for the post-season.
The Lions (2-5) and Cardinals (3-4), who are coming off a 42-0 loss to Spirit Lake, will meet Friday in Garner. Kick-off for the Class 2A play-off game is 7 p.m.
“We had some good things happen offensively, finally, against Roland-Story,” said DeVries. “Carson Toebe is growing as a quarterback and Andrew Formanek had another great game offensively and defensively. Thomas Gansen was tough on defense, along with a lot of players. We’re getting comfortable in our positions and execution was there on both sides of the ball.”
DeVries noted he was pleased with his teams’ quick start, but added “we have to get rid of the ups and downs.”
Roland-Story opened the game with three quick first downs, but the Lion defense stiffened and forced the Norsemen to turn the ball over on downs at the Lion 29. Just three plays later, a fake pitch to the outside allowed Tyres Green to race 43-yards untouched for Clear Lake’s first score. Eric Ritter hit the first of his eight PATs for a 7-0 lead.
Two more Lion TDs lit up the score board in less than three-minutes. Toebe connected with Formanek on a 52-yard TD pass play and Toebe ran the ball in himself from 11-yards out. The score was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Norsemen got their first score in the opening minute of the second quarter. They marched 80-yards on 15 plays, but a missed PAT left them trailing, 21-6.
An onside kick was recovered by Gansen, giving the Lions good field position. A 31-yard run by Jaden O’Brien Green, followed by a 30-yard pass to Zeke Nelson was all it took to make the score 28-6 with 10:30 still to play before half.
Spirits were soaring on the Lion sideline, which may have made the team a little too comfortable, according to their coach.
“They were able to crawl back. We weren’t playing with the same energy,” said DeVries.
In fact, the Norsemen rattled off two scores in less than three-minutes and suddenly the score was 28-18.
The Lion defense re-ignited the offense midway through the quarter. Gansen sacked the Roland-Story quarterback deep in Lion territory and on the next play Jagger Schmitt recovered a fumble at the two. O’Brien-Green did the honors on the first play from scrimmage and the score was back up to 35-18 before halftime.
The Lion defense provided two quick scores to open the second half. An interception by Toebe gave the Lions the ball and two plays later the ran it in for a TD.
Gansen blocked a punt which PJ Feuerbach picked up and ran back for a 49-18 lead.
From there it may have been comfort, or a determined Norseman team, but R-S scratched their way back to make it 49-32 by the end of three quarters. The score held until the final six-minutes when the Lions, sparked by back-to-back sacks by Caden Jones and Tucker Jones and an interception by Green, scored again. A one-yard run by O’Brien-Green put the Lions safely ahead, 56-32.
A touchdown and two-point conversion with just under three-minutes to play made the final 56-40. Andrew Crane intercepted a late R-S pass to finally douse any more comeback plans.
Toebe finished with 167-yards on 7/16 passing. Formanek pulled down three passes for 91-yards.
The Lions piled up 240-yards rushing, led by Green with eight carries for 105-yards. O’Brien-Green ran the ball 15 times for 41 and Schmitt had five carries for 31-yards.
Defensively, Ty Fisher recorded 7.5 tackles, including one for a loss and a sack. Sam Nelson had 6.5 total tackles, five of them solo. Gansen and Feuerbach had five tackles and two sacks apiece. Gansen made three solo tackles, while Feuerbach was credited with four solo. Tucker Jones was also among the leaders with 4.5 tackles, three solo, and two sacks.
Green, Feuerbach and Schmitt all had fumble recoveries.
Crane recorded two interceptions in the game. Green and Toebe each made one.
“We are excited for the opportunity to play in the play-offs, and it’s a short road trip and a rivalry game,” said DeVries. “There’s still football to be played.”