Redhawks headed to quarterfinals

North Tama notches wild win, 12-8

North Tama’s Aiden Zook (11) slips past Lynnville-Sully defender Caleb Rea (22) during Friday’s Class A playoff football game in Sully. The Redhawks won 12-8. Photo by Noah Rohlfing

One of the biggest risk-reward decisions of the Iowa high school football season took place Friday night at Lynnville-Sully.

After a chaotic, emotionally charged first half that saw the Redhawks veer towards losing control and get two sideline unsportsmanlike conduct penalties towards the end of the half, North Tama was leading the Lynnville-Sully Hawks 12-8 with 2:01 left in the game. On fourth and three from their own 17-yard-line, the Redhawks set out to ice the game.

Not with the punt team, but with a bootleg run/pass option.

Quarterback Gabe Kopriva sensed the oncoming pressure and pushed a pass to wide receiver Michael Bell, who had snuck past the line of scrimmage and was wide open.

Eighty yards later, Bell was caught and kept out of the end zone — but it was too late. North Tama (8-2) overcame a near-disaster of a first half and advanced, defeating Lynnville-Sully (8-2) 12-8 and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Class A football playoffs.

Photo by Noah Rohlfing

The fourth-down conversion at the end was a result of the trust coach Taylor Wurth has in his team.

“I’ve believed in my guys all year, we’ve believed in each other,” Wurth said. “I told them, ‘It’s fourth and three, we get this, we win the football game.’ It was a unanimous decision, [they said] let’s go win the football game right now. Gabe made a hell of a play.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of them for fighting throughout four quarters, it’s what they’ve done all year.”

Early on, there was not much action or excitement on the field. The first four drives of the game ended in zero points, with the most threatening drive a push from Lynnville-Sully that ended at the North Tama 25-yard-line.

A scoreless first quarter gave way to an eventful second quarter. Eventually, tensions boiled over after the officials ruled Lynnville-Sully scored on a fourth-and-goal play in which running back Corder Noun Harder fumbled at the one yard line. Officials ruled a North Tama player touched the ball, which allowed Kyle Squires to pick up the ball and dive into the end zone for the score. The call was disputed by North Tama fans and coaches but stood, with the officials holding firm.

Photo by Noah Rohlfing

The Hawks took an 8-0 lead. The score was the same at the half, with the Redhawks trying to regroup after the half ended with unsportsmanlike penalties and a conversation between Wurth and the officiating crew.

Bell said the team came together in the halftime huddle.

“It was kind of a heartwarming moment,” Bell said. “Everyone came together after all the screaming and we were like, ‘We’ve got 24 minutes, we’re gonna go get it done.'”

The Redhawks began to move the ball better in the second half, mixing the running game with Kopriva’s passing. Late in the third quarter, Kopriva found Devin McKinley on fourth-and-goal for a touchdown. The two-point attempt was no good, but the Redhawks were back in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, North Tama recovered an onside kick. The drive did not end with points.

A Lynnville-Sully drive ended in a poor punt, and just two plays after getting the ball back it looked as if the Redhawks would take the lead.

Kopriva was running in from the 20 yard line, but the Hawks forced a fumble at the one-yard line. He bobbled the ball but was unable to control it in the end zone, and it became a touchback.

With six minutes left, the Redhawks had the ball inside the 25-yard-line of Lynnville-Sully once again. This time, Kopriva broke through with a 20-yard pass to Michael Schrier, giving the Redhawks their first lead of the night. Kopriva threw for 235 yards and two scores, with Bell catching two passes for 119 yards and Schrier grabbing five for 41 yards and the score.

Lynnville-Sully started the next possession with the ball on the North Tama 35-yard-line after a late hit penalty. On a key fourth-and-six from the NT 31, Harder threw a halfback pass into the waiting arms of Kopriva with 3:35 left in the game.

Four plays later, the Redhawks’ risky gamble worked.

The play was a fitting way for the team to seal the game, Kopriva said.

“I was gonna do anything I can to get those two yards,” Kopriva said. “I knew I had to do whatever I could to get that, because that was going to win the game.

“It means a lot.”

North Tama held the Hawks to 133 yards rushing while running for 120 of its own thanks to 78 yards from Kopriva.

In the next round quarterfinals, the Redhawks travel to Grundy Center on Friday, November 5 to play the Spartans (8-1). Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The winner will head to the UNI-Dome for Iowa high school state football semifinals.

North Tama 12, Lynnville-Sully 8

At Sully

Score by Quarters

N.TAMA 0 0 6 6 — 12

L-S 0 8 0 0 — 8

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

No scoring.

Second Quarter

L-S — Kyle Squires fumble recovery (Corder Noun Harder run), 4:05.

Third Quarter

NT — Devin McKinley 4 pass from Gabe Kopriva (run failed), 1:45.

Fourth Quarter

NT — Michael Bell 20 pass from Kopriva (pass failed), 5:41.