SERGEANT BLUFF | As expected, two of the top football teams in Iowa Class 3A put on quite a show here Friday night.
Thanks to a huge second-quarter explosion, No. 8 Sergeant Bluff-Luton held on for a 35-28 win over No. 3 Sioux City Bishop Heelan in the District 1 opener for both teams.
The game wasn't decided until the Crusaders misfired on a fourth down pass in SB-L territory in the closing seconds, but a 28-point second quarter certainly gave the Warriors a huge momentum boost.
Trailing 14-0, SB-L scored four second-quarter touchdowns and broke for halftime with a 28-14 cushion, forcing Heelan to play catch up.
The Crusaders scored on their first offensive play of the second half and again with just over three minutes left in the game, but a 30-yard interception return by Sergeant Bluff-Luton's Sam DeMoss turned out to be the deciding touchdown.
De Moss, a junior, picked off a Drew Olson pass and took it to the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter, pushing SB-L's lead back to 14 points, 35-21. It was one of a number of key plays the Warrior defense made, but they had to dig in one more time after Heelan recovered an onside kick following a 22-yard touchdown pass from Olson to Tommy Schiltz with 3:08 remaining.
Heelan took over on the SB-L 49 and moved all the way to the 34 before Olson was tossed for a 6-yard loss and Saybein Clark was tackled for a 2-yard loss on a swing pass. The final pass from the Warriors' 42-yard line sailed incomplete and all that was left was for SB-L to line up in victory formation, clinching its third consecutive win over Heelan.
“What caused our bad start is we had two bad practices this week,” Sergeant Bluff-Luton Coach Justin Smith said. “I think our guys were just tight and felt pressure, you beat them twice and can you do it a third time, then we settled down and started playing ball.
“We had a young quarterback make a lot of mistakes early and then he just settled down and played. He showed his youth a little bit later again, but a great job of stepping in as a sophomore like that against a team like that and throwing the ball well.
“They bring a lot of pressure and our line picked it up well most of the night. Britton broke some big runs and had a nice night and our defense just flew around on a short field all night long against that much talent. I was very proud of those guys, that was an outstanding performance.”
Daniel Wright, a lanky 6-foot 4 sophomore filling in for injured starter Dylan Laughlin, completed 13 of 28 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns in his first high school start. Laughlin broke his hand against Sioux City East last week and will be out for several weeks.
As usual, Britton Delperdang was the SB-L workhorse, carrying 27 times for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“Coach preaches to us all the time about grit, he does a great job of teaching us that and that's what won us the game tonight,” Delperdang said. “It's a great win for us, we were looking forward to it all week and got the job done. Our defense definitely put us in position to score. They have a Division I athlete over there and they did a great job containing him.”
Heelan's Saybein Clark, a North Dakota State recruit, finished with 97 yards on 24 carries, but had just three runs of 10 yards or more.
One of those was a 20-yard touchdown with 11:11 left in the second quarter, giving Heelan a 14-0 lead. SB-L got on the board on a 59-yard strike from Wright to Ty Boekelman and tied it on a 7-yard Delperdang run at the 6:17 mark.
The Warriors recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and turned that into a 6-yard go-ahead scoring run by Delperdang. Wright threw 31 yards to Deric Fitzgerald on third-and-22 prior to the second Delperdang touchdown.
Heelan was forced to punt from deep in its own territory and got off a 20-yarder, giving the Warriors the ball at the Heelan 34. It took two steely passes by Wright – on on third down and the other on fourth – to keep the drive alive and Wright fired a 3-yard touchdown pass to Boekelman with just eight seconds remaining, capping the huge second quarter.
“We started pretty hard and quick like we wanted to and executed a few plays, then we got a little complacent,” Heelan Coach Jerry Steffen said. “Some of our focus got lost and we weren't executing plays very well in the second quarter and let them came back.
“I think we responded well and came back in the second half, the kids played awfully hard. With kids going both ways I can't fault their effort. We do have to clean up some disciplined responsibilities and once we do that I think we will be fine.”
Heelan quarterback Olson gained 87 yards on 10 rushes, including a 56-yard scamper where he was tripped up from behind in the first quarter and a 42-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton (3-0) plays Le Mars on Friday while Heelan (2-1) has another tough foe in state-ranked Storm Lake.