RENSSELAER — Missed opportunities were the difference in the game for North Newton in a 35-6 loss to Rensselaer in the sectional semifinals Nov. 1.
Even after being hit in the mouth early on by Rensselaer with two long touchdown plays, the Spartans calmed the ship and made it a game for nearly three quarters.
However, missed opportunities, especially in the first half cost North Newton as Rensselaer began to grind down the tough Spartan defense in the fourth quarter.
“Coming in, I knew it was going to be tough, especially early,” said North Newton coach Scott Rouch said. “With 22 guys, it’s hard to simulate what they’re going to be doing. It took us a while to catch up to what they had going on. In the middle of the game, I thought we played pretty well with them. We had opportunities, but we didn’t do what we need to do. Then we started losing bodies. That offense takes its toll on you. They just pound on you, pound on you and pound on you and we just couldn’t hang with them.”
Rensselaer senior Noah Bierma got the scoring started with a 45-yard touchdown run at the 9:05 mark of the first quarter on his team’s first offensive possession.
After forcing North Newton into a three-and-out, the Bombers struck again, this time senior quarterback Eli Hickman connected with senior tight end Luke Standish for a 44-yard touchdown pass to go up 13-0 with 6:18 to play in the first quarter.
North Newton’s defense tightened up and kept Rensselaer out of the endzone for the rest of the first half to keep the game close, but three missed offensive chances could have made it a much different game for the Spartans.
Trailing 13-0, North Newton was able to march down the field from its own 37-yard line all the way to inside Rensselaer’s 5-yard line until a lost fumble kept the Spartans off the scoreboard.
The Spartans would move the ball into Rensselaer territory two more times in the first half, but each drive ended as the Rensselaer defense held tough on fourth down.
North Newton kept battling with the Bombers, but another big play accounting for a score really hurt the Spartans’ chances. Dalton Kidd broke past the North Newton defense for an 85-yard touchdown run and then Hickman ran in the two-point conversion for a 21-0 lead with 6:27 to play in the third quarter.
North Newton answered right back with a big play of its own as junior quarterback Austin Goddard hooked up with senior wide-out Vince Taylor for a 78-yard touchdown pass as the Spartans pulled within 21-6. Taylor was able to outjump the Rensselaer defenders on the play and then turn it loose to streak for an additional 40 yards for the score.
Rensselaer switched to a new formation of offense and it paid off as the Bombers added two more touchdowns for the 35-6 victory.
“We did some things we hadn’t shown all year,” said Rensselaer head coach Chris Meeks. “We went up 21-0, they came back and made it 21-6, we called a timeout and went to a formation we haven’t shown all year and it went for a jet sweep of around 80 yards, which got us back to a three-score game.”
Just a minute after North Newton scored, Rensselaer sophomore Kelton Hesson bounced a run to the outside and scored from 37-yards out for the 28-6 advantage.
Addison Wilmington scored from nine-yard out for the game’s final score at the 5:19 mark of the fourth quarter.
North Newton standout Colin Wagner said the team knew what to expect from Rensselaer but stopping them is a different story.
“We knew they were going to just pound the ball and be physical,” said Wagner. “We challenged our defensive line, linebackers and secondary because we knew what they were going to do and everybody else knew what they were going to do; run the ball and every once in a while throw a deep ball.”
North Newton had 366 yards of offense, including 233 yards on 17-of-27 passing by Goddard. He threw for a score but was also picked off twice.
Wagner finished with 85 yards rushing on 19 carries as the Bomber defense keyed in on him all night.
It was the final game for Wagner and fellow seniors Taylor, Trevor Kolodziej, and David Scheeringa.
“Those four guys did a good job of leading this team,” said Rouch. “They came all the time and played their butts off and tried to lead by example. They won a conference championship this year, had a winning record at 7-3 … they are the first-class from what I could find that had a winning record all four years. That’s something they can be proud of.”