SIOUX CITY | Three times in the last four years, the Hawks of Ankeny have lost a state semifinal playoff game to the eventual Class 4A state football champion.
Eight times in the last 11 years, Coach Jerry Pezzetti’s teams have been among the last four teams in the big-school title hunt.
And now, ranked No. 1 in Iowa’s Associated Press poll, the third winningest coach in Iowa prep football history is expected to corral the second state championship in his 50-year career.
That made it all the more surprising Friday night when the Stars of North High took the opening kickoff and marched 85 yards to grab an early 7-0 lead.
Encouraging as it seemed, the advantage was short-lived as undefeated Ankeny scored the next 56 points en route to a 63-13 triumph at Elwood Olsen Stadium, improving to 7-0 on the season.
“I think we’re as good as anybody, but you know how it goes,’’ said Pezzetti, who has probably had a dozen state title contenders, picking up his lone championship after a semifinal win over Sioux City West in 1997. “Our best two running backs aren’t playing right now, so we just have to get healthy and do the best we can.’’
Senior quarterback Joel Lanning, already committed to Iowa State, guided the Hawks to a 49-7 halftime lead and took the rest of the night off, connecting on eight of 10 passes for 206 yards and four touchdowns.
Three of those scoring passes went to junior Marshall Clark, whose five catches in the first two quarters accounted for 146 yards.
Sam Pickard added a 35-yard scoring catch and an eight-yard TD run for the Hawks, who added two second-half touchdowns with a 14-yard keeper from backup quarterback Brent Jones and a 45-yard gallop by Bryce Evans.
“If you make a single mistake against a team that physical, you’re at their mercy,’’ said North Coach Shawn Meth, whose team fell to 2-5. “We’re not able to physically match up with anybody on the defensive side. We’ll have to make some changes for these last two games with Ames and Fort Dodge because they’re critical games for us (in terms of a possible playoff berth).’’
Sophomore quarterback Daniel Tillo completed 11 of 19 passes for 147 yards, hitting Deontre Dean on two pinpoint touchdown throws of 18 and 25 yards.
The first, of course, capped the game-opening drive. And, despite two quick scores that sent the Hawks in front 14-7 in short order, North came up with another solid march, picking up three first downs and reaching the Ankeny 32 before sputtering.
Field position made a significant difference for the guests, pinning North deep in its own territory on several kickoffs while converting two pass interceptions into touchdowns, either of them on the very next play.
The Hawks blew the game open with five touchdowns in the second quarter, getting TD receptions of 25, 12 and 54 yards from the 6-2 185-pounder who also had one of the winners’ interceptions.
Ankeny 63, North 13
Storm Lake 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Bishop Heelan 10 28 7 0 -- 45
SCN: Deontre Dean 18 pass from Daniel Tillo (Brandon Velazquez kick) 7:54
ANK: Stephen Goforth 2 run (Zach Halder kick) 6:26
ANK: Drew Carlson 22 run (Halder kick) 3:44
ANK: Marshall Clark 25 pass from Joel Lanning (Halder kick) 10:45
ANK: Clark 12 pass from Lanning (Halder kick) 9:52
ANK: Sam Pickard 8 run (Halder kick) 5:03
ANK: Pickard 35 pass from Lanning (Halder kick) 3:53
ANK: Clark 54 pass from Lanning (Halder kick) 0:56
ANK: Brent Jones 14 run (Heath Naylor kick) 7:11
SCN: Dean 25 pass from Tillo (pass failed) 3:26
ANK: Bryce Evans 45 run (Naylor kick) 7:15
First downs 21 11
Rushes-yards 28-261 28-93
Passing yards 223 156
Passes 10-12-0 12-22-2
Total plays-yards 40-484 50-249
Punts-average 1-33.0 5-28.4
Penalties-yards 4-20 7-35
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
RUSHING: Ankeny -- Stephen Goforth 5-76, Bryce Evans 3-46, Brent Jones 4-38, Drew Carlson 3-33, Tyler Pagliai 2-29, Josh Johnson 3-14, Sam Pickard 2-12, Garrett Aukes 4-8, Shaun Ahern 1-3, Joel Lanning 1-2. North -- Daniel Tillo 11-39, Noah Popken 8-26, D’ajo Hubert 2-17, Robbie Carter 4-11, Robert Neustrom 2-6, Team 1-(-6).
PASSING: Ankeny -- Joel Lanning 8-10-0--206, Brent Jones 2-2-0--17. North -- Daniel Tillo 11-19-2--147, Robert Neustrom 1-3-0--9.
RECEIVING: Ankeny -- Marshall Clark 5-146, Sam Pickard 2-48, Josh Davis 1-13, Tanner Clayberg 1-12, P.J. Carey 1-4. North -- Faris Najdawi 5-58, Deontre Dean 2-43, Austin Ahrendt 2-14, Carlos Elizalde 1-26, Cory Schoennher 1-9, D’ajo Hubert 1-6.