SIOUX CITY | It's week four of the football season and Heelan knew it was getting late pretty early.
Needing to pick up a crucial district victory the Bishop Heelan football team turned to its Division I running back Saybein Clark and he came through in more ways than one.
Clark blocked No. 8 Storm Lake's 36-yard field goal attempt in the final 30 seconds to preserve the No. 7 Crusaders' 10-7 Class 3A District 1 victory at Memorial Field on Friday night.
"It was a must win in district play as we found out last year because it pretty much knocked us out of the playoffs," said Heelan Coach Jerry Steffen of the homecoming victory. "We work on that, special teams we work on every week almost every day.
"Saybein is our guy for the block. He is our fast guy, he is our athlete, he is our Division I player. We are going to put it on him and challenge him, and he came through with the game-saving block."
"It was a tight football game and we know that Heelan is a good football team, we are a good football team," Storm Lake Coach Rudy Wieck said. "We just made too many mistakes, too many mental errors and that is what it came down to."
Both teams played tight contests a week ago with Heelan dropping a 35-28 decision to Sergeant Bluff-Luton while the Tornadoes held off Algona 35-34. The Crusaders needed the victory or it would have been a replay of last season when Storm Lake earned its first win over Heelan 34-14.
Heelan avoided an 0-2 district start for the second straight year as first-year kicker Andres Salcedo connected on a 33-yard field goal with 4:10 to go in the third quarter. That proved to be the winning points.
"That is his only game-winning field goal," Steffen said. "Awesome that he had that opportunity and was able to come through."
Both teams struggled to get anything going in the first half as Heelan had the best early chance as Eli Mollet tackled the Storm Lake punter when he fumbled the snap. The Crusaders took over on the Tornadoes' 33 but could not get a first down in four plays.
Storm Lake made the Crusaders pay as fullback Brayden Hoops took a handoff up the middle before bouncing outside and broke some poor tackling attempts by Heelan to race 68 yards for the touchdown.
Heelan, which was a victim of some early dropped passes, decided to go to the power game after the Tornadoes found the end zone. The Crusaders went 80 yards in 12 plays as it was all Clark and Hunter Hope on the ground with one 7-yard run by Dawson Fenton. Clark rumbled the final nine yards over the smaller Tornadoes to tie the game at 7-7 in the fast-moving first half.
"All we wanted to do was control the line of scrimmage and drive the ball at them and wear their defense down," said Steffen as he watched Clark run the ball 32 times for 185 yards and a touchdown. "We are really riding Saybein and he came through, stepped up to the plate tonight and did what he had to do."
The Crusaders ran for 131 yards in the first half while Storm Lake had 125 yards on the ground. The Tornadoes threw just two passes in the first half while Heelan completed 4 of 10 attempts for 10 yards.
"We challenged our offensive line and they played a really good game, they really came through," Steffen said. "
Storm Lake looked to be driving for the tying or leading score in the fourth quarter and had it on the Heelan 37 when the Crusader defense forced a fumble by Tornadoes quarterback Kevin Duque that was recovered by Caleb Engel.
That momentum was short-lived as Heelan fumbled the ball two plays later with Storm Lake recovering the ball. Heelan would take nearly six minutes off the clock with its next drive aided by a Storm Lake roughing the punter penalty.
Hoops ended his night with 103 yards on 12 carries and Duque threw for 61 yards.
Storm Lake (3-1, 1-1) is back home on Friday when it faces Humboldt while the Crusaders (3-1, 1-1) play host to Le Mars.
"If we played them 10 times I think it would be a dog fight every single time within seven points," Wieck said. "We hope to see a three-way tie for first (in the district). I don't know how it is going to shake out."