TRAER, Iowa -- For the better part of three quarters Friday night, Class A's third-ranked North Tama Redhawks, were rolling toward a date in the semifinals next week as they held a 23-6 edge over Woodbury Central.
Over the final 13 minutes of the game, the Wildcats flipped the Redhawks season and scored 28 unanswered points for a 34-23 come-from-behind victory and it will be the Wildcats making the trip to Cedar Falls next week.
North Tama (10-1) had a slow start to the game as a muffed punt on one possession, followed by a bad snap on another punt, led to a 6-0 deficit early in the second quarter.
The Redhawks snapped out of their funk for the next 15 minutes piling up three scores and taking what seemed to be a comfortable lead.
Tayten Payne began the three score run with a 57-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Gabe Kopriva, then Skyler Staker bulled across the goal line from nine yards out to add to the Redhawks lead as they carried a 15-6 advantage into the half.
The Redhawks looked as if they had punched their ticket to the next round as Luke Pennell pulled in a 30-yard pass from Staker to build a 23-6 lead.
Things went south from there.
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"We did well for the first three quarters but we couldn't stop them late," said North Tama head coach Tom McDermott. "They began to get the momentum after they scored again and it just got worse from there. We got beat by a better team."
The seventh-ranked Wildcats did not go away as they marched down quickly and scored on Wade Mitchell's one-yard plunge with one minute remaining in the third frame to cut the deficit to 23-13.
North Tama failed to pick up a first down and a short kick gave the Wildcats good field position, which they took advantage of.
Quarterback Jase Manker drove the Cats down early in the fourth and tossed an 11-yard strike to Shawn Archer closing the gap to 23-20.
WC took the lead back with 3:19 remaining on a long pass to Ethan Copeland from Manker that covered 33 yards.
Now trailing 27-23, the Redhawks needed to put a drive together and quickly.
A second down pass was caught by Luke Pennell, but the Wildcats defense swarmed him causing a fumble that Mitchell scooped up at the 23 and went untouched to the end zone to seal the deal for the Wildcats.
"We played well for awhile but did not do so well at the end," said McDermott. "We couldn't convert first downs and we did not do what we needed to do. They are a tremendous team against the run, probably one of the best in the state and they stopped us, and we couldn't stop them. We didn't get pressure on their quarterback and their lines controlled ours. We just didn't finish."