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Colfax defense puts clamps on Cardinals to hold on for win

COLFAX — Much like the game last year against the Spring Valley Cardinals, it came down to the last few seconds before the Vikings could finally claim a win.

But last year it was the Colfax offense who made the big play, a last second touchdown pass from Jarrod Rudi to Devon Utpadel that sealed the deal. This year, after holding a 19-6 lead midway through the final quarter, the Vikings’ defense was forced to make a big stop on a two-point conversion run to sneak out a 19-18 win at home Friday, Sept. 12.

“We played an outstanding defensive game the first three quarters,” coach Mark Maloney said after a big sigh of relief. “We had some breakdowns in the fourth but made the one stop we needed when it counted.”

The first possession for both teams seemed to set the stage for a defensive battle as the Vikings moved the ball from their own 40 down to the Cardinal four on six runs by Jeremiah Wait, two by Aliymu Davis, two by quarterback Rudi, a first down run by Jacob Steinke and a 10-yard run by Andrew Adix as they collected four first downs.

But the Cardinal defense wouldn’t let them into the endzone and took over on downs.

The Cardinals ran the ball three times out to their own 38 but on fourth and one, the Vikings stuffed the Cardinal ball carrier for no gain and took the ball back.

The first quarter ended at 0-0 but the Vikings were in the middle of a 63-yard drive that culminated in a tough one-yard run for six points by Rudi, just four seconds into the second quarter. Rudi’s kick was blocked but Colfax had a 6-0 lead.

After trading punts, Spring Valley went on their own drive for 67 yards and knotted the score on a Remington Schneider one-yard run as their kick was also missed with 6:17 left in the half.

Davis returned the kickoff to the Viking 45 and Rudi came out throwing, completing a 20 yarder to Davis and a 20-yard catch and run to Adix. That was followed by a 12-yard strike to Steinke to the three yard line and two plays later, Wait punched it in for the score. Rudi’s kick was good for a 13-6 lead  with 4:20 on the clock.

The Colfax defense came up with three big plays including a stuff by Sawyer DeMoe on the Cardinal running back, a QB sack by Zach Meyer, and a tackle for just a two-yard gain on a pass play by Jon Hayton, forcing a Cardinal punt.

Both teams had another possession before the half but didn’t move the ball and the half ended with Colfax holding the lead.

Spring Valley took the second half kickoff to their own 38, and with runs by Logan Newton and Schneider, along with a couple of pass completion to Hank Larson, they were on the move. But defensive stops by Trevor Olson, Steinke, Logan Mittelstadt and Hayton along with two incomplete passes gave the ball to the Vikings on their own 28.

On third and eight however, Rudi’s arm was hit in a pass attempt, resulting in a Cardinals’ interception. Ben Kragness came up with a stop for a two-yard gain on Newton, Davis made two straight tackles and Hayton stuffed the runner on fourth and four to get the ball back.

Wait, Rudi, Davis and Adix took turns running with the ball, moving into the fourth quarter. After an 11-yard pass from Rudi to Sawyer DeMoe, Wait carried the ball to pay dirt from six yards out. The kick was blocked again and little did anyone know how important that would be as Colfax took the lead 19-6 with 10:54 left in the game.

For the next two minutes it was the DeMoe Show as he stopped Schneider for a three-yard loss, sacked him in a pass attempt, and then sacked him again, resulting in a third and 23 and another punt.

But Colfax was forced to punt themselves after a three and out.

With 6:16 to go, the Cardinals potent offense came to life and although Olson and Hayton stopped Schneider on a third and nine, a 26-yard pass completion on fourth and six kept the Cardinal drive going. Three more pass completions with a Schneider scramble put the ball at the Colfax seven and Newton scored from there with 1:58 left. The two point run was stuffed and Colfax was hanging on to their lead, 19-12.

With everyone in the stadium expecting an onside kick, they were not disappointed as the Cardinals ran the play to perfection, snatching the ball in mid air to take possession at their own 45.

A 12-yard sack by a swarming Colfax defense made it second and 22, but two long passes, one down the middle of the field and another down the left sideline brought the ball to the Colfax four. A facemask penalty on the Vikings moved it to the two and Jed Schlegel took it up the middle for the score.

With 13.9 seconds on the clock, the Cardinals decided to go for the win rather than kick for a tie, thus leading to the biggest stop of the night. Schneider faked a handoff up the middle and pitched to Newton who tried to get around the left end. Davis forced him outside, Steinke hit him enough to stand him up and Rudi finished him off a couple of feet from the goal line.

The Cardinals tried another onside kick but this time DeMoe snared the ball in the air and hung on to preserve the win.

“We knew Spring Valley had a potent offense with a lot of good athletes and were one of the favorites in the conference this year,” Maloney said. “So holding them down all four quarters would have been a tough task. But we were caught off guard a few times and gave up some big plays. Our offense had to grind it out all game and Spring Valley didn’t allow us to break off any long gains. It was a good, hard hitting football game for both teams and I’m proud at how we stayed calm and made that final stop,’ he added.

Wait led the Vikings in rushing with 86 yards on 26 carries, Rudi added 55 on 10 carries and Davis collected 29 yards on three rushes. Rudi completed six of nine passes for 85 yards with Davis and Steinke snaring a pair and Adix and DeMoe catching one each. Hayton led the Vikings with six tackles and Adix, Meyer, DeMoe and Kragness all had four.

Colfax will take their 2-1 record to Glenwood City this Friday night. The Hilltoppers were the Division 7 state runners up last year and although they are in a rebuilding mode, they are 3-1 overall.