WOODWARD — A trio of early touchdowns and a final defensive stand enabled Woodward-Granger to turn back Des Moines Christian, 27-21, in their Class 1A District 5 battle Friday.
W-G (3-3, 3-1) kept their playoff hopes alive with the victory, as wins at Mt. Ayr this week and against Pleasantville Oct. 14 would assure the Hawks of at least the district runner-up spot. DMC’s slim hopes vanished with the loss, which dropped the Lions to 2-4 overall and 1-3 in district action. The victory avenged a 41-26 loss last season that cost the Hawks a postseason spot in the 32-team playoffs; the number of qualifying teams has been halved to just 16 per class for the foreseeable future.
The Hawk offensive line seized control of the game from the outset, with senior tailback Tanner Vermaas chewing up large chunks of yardage before stepping between two blocks off right end, darting outside and sprinting 20 yards to the end zone. He added the PAT kick for a swift 7-0 lead.
W-G had found success mainly on runs to the right side, and on their second drive into Lions territory tried twice from inside the 10-yard line to go over right guard and right tackle, but succeeded only in moving the ball to the six. On third down, quarterback Brendan Bird rolled left on a bootleg, and, taking the long angle, outran the defense to the corner for a 13-0 Hawk lead.
The defense held on downs, and the offense struck again for a 19-0 lead after Bird hit J.P. Nixon on a little five-yard route. Nixon, however, refused to go down, breaking two tackles and bursting free to score on what became a 35-yard play.
DMC quarterback Nathan Herbers connected with Ben Juhl for a 21 yard score in the second quarter to set the halftime score at 19-7, with Herbers finding Seth Juhl for a TD in the third quarter to cut the Lion deficit to 19-14.
Bird’s one-yard plunge and a two-point conversion opened a 27-14 gap for the hosts, but Herbers found Ben Juhl to trim the margin to 27-21.
The Lions were at the Hawk 40 yard line with just under a minute to play and threatened to steal the win, but Austin Scharlau’s second interception of the game — this one at the 10-yard line — ended the drama, as the hosts simply took a knee to run out the clock.
Herbers was 19-of-52 for 265 yards and three TDs, with Scharlau making two interceptions and Nixon one. Ben Juhl had nine grabs for 125 yards and two scores and Seth Juhl six for 111 yards and a TD while Matt Brightman (2-12) and Brandon Pemouile (2-17) also catching passes.
DMC’s spread style of attack is not designed to generate much in the way of rushing yards, and the W-G defense happily obliged, holding the Lions to six yards on 29 carries (sack yardage is deducted from rushing yards).
Carter Patterson had 10.5 stops to lead the DMC defense, with Herbers intercepting a Bird pass.
The Hawk QB was 5-of-11 for 110 yards through the air, with Nixon (2-41, 1 TD), John Stucker (2-36) and Logan Canova (1-33) his targets.
Vermaas piled up 216 yards and a score on 28 carries, with Scharlau (4-21), Payton Tague (7-18), Bird (4-11, 1 TD) and Josh Saak (2, minus-8) also carrying the pigskin.
Vermaas led the defense with 7.5 tackles, with Nixon and Devan Kirkman adding seven stops apiece and Canova 5.5 denials. Kirkman had a sack and two tackles for a loss, with Canova making three stops behind the line of scrimmage and Vermaas two.
W-G will visit Mt. Ayr (3-3, 1-3) Friday. The Raiders fell to Pleasantville, 40-0, last week.