The snap was a bit high, but the kick by Jose Yepez was true.
And finally, the Ottumwa High School football team had a win that was a long-time coming.
Yepez’s 26-yard field goal with 23 seconds left lifted the Bulldogs to a 37-34 win over Des Moines East in a Class 4A District 6 football game Friday at Schafer Stadium on Senior Night.
“We’ve worked all week as a team. This one was for my grandma, who died three years ago from cancer,” said Yepez, a senior. “I’m just really thankful this happened tonight.”
Yepez wasn’t the only player with family on his mind. Senior Gage Cole ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns the same day his grandfather passed away.
“I had a couple goals tonight, one was to score a touchdown for my grandpa,” Cole said. “There’s just a lot going through my head right now, but this feeling, knowing it’s the last game I’ll play on this field in front of the fans...We just kept fighting.”
Indeed, the game looked bleak several times. The Bulldogs (2-6, 1-3 District 6) fell behind 20-7 in the first half and trailed 34-27 going into the final quarter. Ottumwa might have folded in previous weeks, but not this one. The Bulldogs continued to pound away in the running game, with Cole and Kie Glosser combining for 355 yards on the ground.
The Bulldogs turned to their running game as the final drive started at their own 49 with 4:43 left. Ottumwa ran 11 plays (nine runs, a pass and Yepez’s game-winner), and with a chance to win it late, Cole said it was imperative the team stay in the moment.
“You get really nervous, but if you’re worried about making a mistake, you usually make one,” he said. “We knew we just had to execute on that drive.”
Ottumwa coach Brian Goodvin knew Yepez would either make to the kick or overtime followed. He even debated about going for the fourth-and-2 at the 9.
“We really wanted to run the ball. All of our scoring drives had been long drives previously,” he said. “This was just awesome for our seniors. They put in a really good week of practice, followed the game plan and showed a lot of fight.
“This is what we’ve talked about about playing the next play,” he said. “If we didn’t do that tonight, the game would have not ended how we wanted.”
Glosser rushed 36 times for 216 yards for the Bulldogs, but quarterback Adam Denniston completed clutch passes, including an 8-yarder to Cole on third down to extend the final drive.
However, the defense came up big in the second half. The Bulldogs got a stop to start the second half, and limited the Scarlets (2-6, 1-3) to just 125 yards offense after halftime, with most of those coming on an 80-yard touchdown run by Queden Ballew to give East a 34-27 lead in the third quarter.
Ottumwa was beaten by a big play earlier as well, as Isaiah Dameron caught a screen pass and went 90 yards for a score to make it 26-14 in the second quarter.
Still, the Bulldogs battled on behind their running game.
“I love the way Kie runs, because he opens up my style of running,” Cole said. “(Tanner) Holman and the offensive line ... I just had a lot of confidence in them tonight. I put my trust in them.”
Trae Swartz, who had missed four games with an ankle injury, wasn’t a major factor overall, but when he was in the game, he made plays. He caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Denniston to tie the game in the first quarter, then caught a 23-yard pass on a fake punt in the third quarter.
Goodvin believed his seniors would put their best foot forward in their final home game. They did, and Cole was a major reason for it.
“It feels like we’ve worked our butts off the last three weeks and gone through three weeks of hell,” Cole said. “The seniors that have stuck with it keep fighting for each other. We didn’t want to let anyone down tonight.”
Ottumwa finishes its season at Mason City next week.
DM East 13 13 8 0 — 34
Ottumwa 7 13 7 10 — 37
D—Isaiah Dameron 31 run (Alex Lovan kick)
O—Trae Swartz 3 pass from Adam Denniston (Bryan Carapia kick)
D—Zach Truitt 16 pass from Sean Head (kick failed)
D—Aubrey Gillard 1 run (Lovan kick)
O—Gage Cole 14 run (Carapia kick)
D—Dameron 90 pass from Head (kick failed)
O—Cole 30 run (kick failed)
O—Kie Glosser 1 run (Carapia kick)
D—Gillard 80 run (Gillard run)
O—Denniston 1 run (Carapia kick)
O—Jose Yepez 26 FG
First downs 13 26
Rushing-yards 32-238 66-355
Passing yards 168 62
Comp-Att-Int 7-12-0 7-13-0
Total offense 406 417
Punts-avg. 3-35.7 1-47.0
Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 8-55 2-10
Rushing—Des Moines East: Aubrey Gillard 11-115, Isaiah Dameron 5-49, Sean Head 15-79, Zach Truitt 1-(minus 5). Ottumwa: Gage Cole 21-139, Kie Glosser 36-216, Andrew Cole 1-8, Mitch Wood 1-4, Colton McKinnon 1-0, Adam Denniston 6-(minus 12).
Passing—Des Moines East: Head 6-11-0-145, Gillard 1-1-0-23. Ottumwa: Denniston 7-13-0-62.
Receiving—Des Moines East: Dameron 2-110, Aaron Pollard 2-9, Truitt 2-39, Brayton Hannan 1-10. Ottumwa: McKinnon 1-8, Trae Swartz 3-38, G.Cole 3-16.