NEOLA, Iowa — Tri-Center's first football playoff win in school history will have to wait at least one more year.
With a supportive home crowd behind them, the Trojans got off to a promising start. But they fell behind on a 32-yard field goal with 87 seconds to play and eventually came away empty-handed in a stinging 43-34 loss to Ogden in the opening round of the Class 1-A postseason Wednesday night.
T-C coach John Tiarks, bleary-eyed afterward, said the outcome doesn't change what was in many ways a breakthrough season for the program. It finished second in District 8, and hosted a playoff game at the Melvin B. Rogers Athletic Complex for the first time since 1998.
The Trojans couldn't quite reach the next step.
“It's emotional for them because we had high aspirations,” Tiarks said. “When you're shooting for the moon and not quite getting where you want to be, it's going to hurt.”
A back-and-forth affair was in doubt until the final moments. T-C senior Doug Hoke broke a 52-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to bring his team within 33-32. On the conversion, quarterback Britton Barrier spun in to give the Trojans (7-3) their first lead of the second half.
But Ogden (6-4) – as it did all night – had an answer. Junior quarterback Caleb Frye directed a 15-play, 56-yard drive to T-C's 16 yard line. On fourth and 9, senior Brady Wheelock knocked in a field goal against the wind from 32 yards out to make it 36-34 Ogden.
Wheelock who made the team during open tryouts this fall, hadn't kicked before the season.
“He was standing next to me on the sideline and said, 'Coach, I'll make it if you kick it,'” Ogden coach Garrison Carter said. “He talked me into it.”
Tri-Center got the ball back on its own 18 with 1:21 remaining. But four straight incompletions turned it back over to the Bulldogs, who added a clinching touchdown on the first play.
Down two possessions, the Trojans reached Ogden's 6 before time expired on their season.
“I think they basically just outplayed us in the passing game,” T-C junior Ben Wellman said. “We couldn't stop it.”
Frye finished 23-of-40 passing for 291 yards. Senior running back Cody Good ran 32 times for five touchdowns and 251 yards – many of which came from a Wildcat formation.
Ogden won the yardage battle 561-411. It moves on to face No. 9 Mount Ayr (9-0) on Monday.
“They just didn't want to be done,” Carter said. “They bought into the idea that we'll play as long as we keep winning. We're going to keep winning, I guess.”
Tri-Center looked like it might run away with a playoff win in the first quarter. It forced punts on Ogden's first four possessions, and broke a scoreless deadlock late in the first quarter when Wellman broke free down the right sideline for a 59-yard rushing score.
The fullback added another trip to the end zone with a 3-yard plunge to start the second quarter. After a missed extra point, the home team was celebrating a 13-0 advantage.
But the Bulldogs took over the rest of the frame. Frye completed three of four passes on the ensuing drive, capped by a 4-yard slant to Preston Church.
Wes Zimmerman intercepted Frye in the end zone on the visitors' next possession to extinguish a nine-play drive to Tri-Center's 8 yard line. But Ogden forced a three and out, then took a 14-13 lead when Good ran in for a 5-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs stripped the ball from Tri-Center's Doug Hoke on the next play from scrimmage, setting Ogden up for a short scoring march that spanned 19 yards in seven plays. Good converted from 1-yard out, but a two-point conversion failed to make it 20-13.
After an Ogden score on its first drive of the third quarter, Barrier found CJ Peters for a 45-yard touchdown reception. Hoke added a 9-yard run later in the frame to make it 27-26, but the extra point was blocked.
Ogden extended its lead to 33-26 on a Good TD in the fourth before Hoke's long run set up the dramatic finish.
“It doesn't change the year we had here at Tri-Center,” Tiarks said. “Fantastic kids are the building blocks of a very powerful program that I think is coming.”
Ogden (6-4)........................0 20 7 16—43
Tri-Center (7-3)........................7 6 13 8—34
TC: Ben Wellman 59 run (Adam Hough kick)
TC: Wellman 3 run (kick failed)
O: Preston Church 4 pass from Caleb Frye (Brady Wheelock kick)
O: Cody Good 5 run (Wheelock kick)
O: Good 1 run (conversion failed)
O: Good 8 run (Wheelock kick)
TC: CJ Peters 45 pass from Britton Barrier (Hough kick)
TC: Doug Hoke 9 run (kick blocked)
O: Good 2 run (conversion failed)
TC: Hoke 52 run (Barrier run)
O: Wheelock 32 field goal
O: Good 18 run (Wheelock kick)
RUSHING: O, Jonathon Thompson 5-15, Cody Good 32-251, Caleb Frye 9-(-2), Brady Wheelock 1-6. TC, Doug Hoke 15-120, Ben Wellman 21-177, Loren Williams 5-21, Britton Barrier 9-9.
PASSING: O, Frye 23-40-2, 291 yards; Cody Good 0-1-0, 0 yards. TC, Barrier 5-15-0, 84 yards. Hoke 0-1-0, 0 yards.
RECEIVING: Preston Church 7-81, Cody Good 3-88, Jake West 2-14, Cayce Good 6-68, Grant Heineman 5-55. TC, Wellman 1-7, Williams 1-(-1), CJ Peters 2-67, Hoke 1-11.