DES MOINES — Clayton Morris didn't have to look far to find the player to beat heading into the final frame of individual play at the Class 2A, District 2 boys bowling tournament.
Morris knew exactly what it was going to take to win the first-place medal. After all, he had just watched his own teammate post it.
Moments after Braydon Songer completed a 500 two-game series by picking up a two-pin spare in his final frame, Morris stepped up to the lane having just salvaged a spare after seeing his bid for a perfect game end in the ninth frame. Needing 20 of 30 pins to fall in the frame, Morris caught his teammate at 500 with two straight strikes in the 10th before clinching the individual district title with a final strike that lifted Morris to a 510 series total while putting the Bulldogs on the road back to the state bowling tournament.
"I was actually pretty calm after I left the 10-pin in the ninth frame. Knowing that a perfect game was off the table took a lot of pressure off me," Morris said. "If I had a strike and a spare, we would have gone to a roll-off. I was counting pins before I stepped up for the 10th. When he posted 234 after a 266 in the opening game, I knew I had enough left, but there wasn't going to be much room for error."
Morris and Songer not only posted the only 500 series scores in the six-team state qualifying meet, but led the way to a dominant day for the Bulldogs in capturing the top three individual medals. Mason Konrad followed a 186 opening game with his own bid for perfection, rolling 10 straight strikes before leaving the 10-pin on his 11th ball, making his deepest run yet at the magical 300 individual game.
"It was going pretty smooth throughout the game, but when I stepped up for the 10th frame I was trembling," Konrad said. "It got the best of me. I got the first strike down, but that just ramped the pressure up even more.
"I was so nervous in the moment that I was shocked when that one pin wouldn't fall. It was all good in the end."
Good because those top three individual games helped Ottumwa build a commanding 251-pin lead over Bondurant-Farrar heading into the baker rounds. The Blue Jays ultimately cut into the deficit, but not nearly enough to pose a true threat as Ottumwa maintained a 205-pin cushion after the full five games posting a district championship-winning total of 3,216, punching a return ticket to compete next Wednesday morning in the Class 2A boys state bowling tournament.
"The boys bowled well today. They executed well, at least through the individual games," Ottumwa boys bowling coach Tom Maher said. "We did what we practice, staying down through the zone and projecting the ball out where our eyes are looking. When these guys do that, they're pretty successful. They stayed true to that for most of the day."
Songer built a 29-pin lead over the field after the first individual games concluded on Wednesday, leading Oskaloosa's Dallas Gilchrist who would ultimately wind up with a fifth-place individual medal after leading the Indians to a third-place finish with a 231 average. Morris, meanwhile, was consistent throughout individual play rolling five straight strikes in his opening 231 before joining Konrad in a bid for perfection on the way to posting a 279, just 10 pins behind Konrad's nearly-perfect 289 second game total.
"I think that definitely gave us the confidence of knowing that we had a solid leading going into the baker games," Morris said. "We knew we didn't have to shoot amazing games. It would have been nice to shoot a little better in the bakers, but we'll take what we get.
"Ultimately, it still means we're going to state."
Richard Garrett finished individual play with a strong 244 second game to post a 215 average for Ottumwa. Reiley Freeman and Dylan Glick also rolled 200-plus opening games for the Bulldogs with Freeman edging out Glick in the second game by 10 pins to win the series total between the OHS teammates 389-384.
"From top to bottom, this is as good as any team we've had since I've been here," Maher said. "You look at the averages and, while we may not have anyone in the top five, almost everyone is in the top 25 statewide. We are able to be successful because we're solid from top to bottom. We don't have anyone that we have to carry. All our guys are capable of shooting anywhere from 420 to 520 anytime they come out.
"Our ability to win is to be consistent, cover our spares and do the little things right. If we do that at state, we'll be in the hunt."