STORM LAKE, Iowa | With both teams battling for their playoff lives, the game turned into a old fashioned slobber knocker here Friday night.
Spencer pulled out a 17-14 victory over Storm Lake, hanging on after scoring all 17 of its points in the first half. The Tigers and Tornadoes are each now 6-2 overall and 4-2 in Class 3A District 1.
Each team is still alive for a postseason berth. Spencer plays at Algona Friday while Storm Lake, the defending district champ, has a trip to unbeaten and fifth-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
The play of the game in this one occurred in the waning seconds of the first half.
Spencer was facing 4th and 16 from the Storm Lake 33 when quarterback Cade Hopkins completed a 31-yard pass to Michael Storey. With the final seconds ticking away Hopkins slid in for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 17-7 lead.
The Hopkins touchdown came with 9.5 seconds remaining and turned out to be Spencer's final points of the game. In fact, the Tigers didn't have a first down in the second half but still managed to hold on.
Storm Lake had one last chance with 4th and 16 from the Tiger 31, but a Kevin Duque pass was intercepted by Storey to ice the victory.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game the whole night, I'm really proud of the kids,” Spencer Coach Jim Tighe said. “We had guys out with injury and had some guys step up and play their guts out.”
Spencer was without starting tailback Cooper Fox, out with a concussion. But Hopkins and sophomore fullback Isaiah Spencer shouldered the load.
Spencer carried 20 times for 105 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown dash in the second quarter. Hopkins finished with 51 yards and also had a 92-yard scoring jaunt early in the fourth quarter called back in bizarre set of circumstances.
Hopkins broke loose down the sidelines but was whistled for taunting before he crossed the goal line. In the meantime, Storm Lake was called for sideline interference and, by rule, the penalties offset and the down is replayed.
However, it took a lengthy discussion between the officials to sort things out and, as expected, it didn't set well with the Spencer coaches.
Despite the confusion, the Tigers won and stayed alive and a win over Algona next week could clinch a playoff berth.
“We have to get a win next week and we're in because we have all the head-to-heads (with Storm Lake and Sioux City Bishop Heelan),” Tighe said. “I'm really proud of the way out guys competed. Things looked pretty bleak there but our offense got it done in the first half and the defense hung in there by their fingernails”
Storm Lake outgained the Tigers 296-233, with Lamar Mulgae rushing for a game-high 126 yards on 23 carries. Brayden Hoops added 66 yards and scored his 17th rushing touchdown of the season.
The difference in the game turned out to be a 32-yard field goal by Nathan Hogge with 7:22 left in the first quarter. Spencer had the ball all but three minutes of the opening stanza, with its wishbone offense eating up the clock.
“There were a lot of plays out there that could have made a difference, this game was so tight,” Storm Lake Coach Rudy Wieck said. “We just didn't have enough tonight. We made too many mistakes in the first half, myself included.
“Our defense held them without a first down in the second half but for whatever reason we didn't have them ready to play in the first half and that's on us as coaches and them as players. We're sharing this one, it's tough.”
Isaiah Spencer's 21-yard touchdown run at the 10:21 mark gave Spencer a 10-0 lead, but the Tornadoes answered with a 65-yard scoring march, capped by a 5-yard Mulgae touchdown. After an exchange of punts Spencer got the ball at its own 44 with 2:35 left and was lined up for a 45-yard field goal attempt before being called for a false start.
That, of course, forced the Tigers to run another play, which turned into the rare pass from Hopkins to Storey that turned into the backbreaker for Storm Lake.
Hoops scored the only touchdown of the second half on a 2-yard run with 10:13 left in the game, capping an 88-yard march.