DES MOINES — The Ottumwa football team picked up a gigantic victory over Des Moines East 22-14 Friday in Des Moines.
In a game that could arguably be called the biggest victory in the Zach Pfantz era, the Bulldogs stood face to face with adversity and didn't blink. After falling behind 14-7 in the third quarter, Ottumwa combined herculean effort with clutch playmaking under pressure to oust their former CIML Metro Conference rival.
Isaiah Cox had another monster game at running back, rushing for 188 yards on 29 carries. Cox was the centerpiece of Ottumwa's offense in the second half, where he recorded 18 of his 29 carries. Throughout the half, the sophomore running back ran with a purpose, breaking tackles and dragging Scarlets defenders with him as he gobbled up large chunks of yardage. Cox, however, didn't do it all by his lonesome, the running back had plenty of help from his offensive line, which did a tremendous job opening up holes for him to run through.
Ottumwa's defense also did a tremendous job of containing East's always dangerous, fast-paced, big play-friendly offense. After a strong opening defensive stand, the Bulldog offense didn't need much time — only 57 seconds to be exact — before it got into the Scarlets' endzone in the first quarter. Cox took the handoff on Ottumwa's third play from scrimmage and dashed for a 53-yard touchdown with 9:28 left in the first quarter. Justin Vonderhaar booted in the extra point to give the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.
In a series that was in stark contrast to Ottumwa's lightning fast drive, the Scarlets drove down the field in a businesslike manner. East's methodical drive was defined by a number of solid runs by East quarterback Chino Alcala. Alcala capped off the drive by finding Jaylin James for a 3-yard touchdown on a slant pattern to narrow the gap to 7-6 with 1:47 left in the quarter. Sam Kramer, who had another solid game defensively, blocked the Scarlets' extra point attempt for Bulldogs. Neither team was able to score again before halftime arrived.
Similar to Ottumwa's opening drive, East's offense struck quickly in the third quarter. On the third play of the Scarlets' drive, Alcala kept it himself and galloped 32 yards for a touchdown. East elected to go for it and Alcala once again kept it, and, after evading a tackler, found the end zone to make it 14-7 Scarlets with 9:06 left in the third quarter.
At that point, East harnessed the games momentum to its advantage. But, later in the third quarter quarter, one play would shift the pendulum back in Ottumwa's favor.
On the aforementioned play, Scarlet Y'vez Quinn fumbled a punt and an alert Greig Duo recovered it on East's 49-yard line. Ottumwa coach Zach Pfantz decided he was going to have Cox run up the middle and see if the Scarlets could stop them. It turned out they couldn't; at least not enough to prevent Cox from wracking up first downs. Yet, it was Isaiah Hutchinson who was able to convert on a fourth and inches situation deep in Scarlet territory to start the fourth quarter. Later in the drive, Shane Frazier hooked up with Titus Weller for first down on East's 4-yard line. Moments later, Frazie faked handoff to Cox and took it around the left side before cutting back inside for a touchdown that cut the Bulldogs' lead to 14-13 with 11:10 left in the fourth quarter. Ottumwa decided to go for it and this time it was Cox who rushed it in for the score, giving the Bulldogs a 15-14 lead.
Ottumwa's defense made a huge stop on fourth and inches with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Later in the quarter, the Bulldogs went on another prolonged drive that ate up both yardage and time. Facing a fourth-and-nine situation with less than a minute left in the game, it looked like Frazier handed it off to Cox. The Scarlet defense swarmed Cox, not knowing that Frazier still had the ball. By the time the Scarlet's figured out they had been hoodwinked, Frazier had already scurried down the left sideline for a touchdown. Vonderhaar kicked the extra point to make it 22-14.
Ottumwa (2-1) takes on Indianola at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Schafer Stadium.
To follow Andy Heintz's Twitter feed, go to @heintz23