EXIRA, Iowa — Exira-EHK coach Tom Petersen had seen this ending before. The night before, actually.
Zach Kliefoth connected on an 18-yard field goal with 0.7 seconds left to finish the Spartans’ 39-36 come-from-behind win against Glidden-Ralston (9-3) to clinch a berth in next Friday’s semifinals at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“I’m confident in Zach,” Petersen said. “I had a dream last night that Zach hit a last-second field goal.”
That he did, after sophomore quarterback Drew Peppers — who finished with four touchdown rushes — led the Spartans down the field after intercepting a pass from Glidden-Ralston’s Aaron Rodriguez with 1:19 left in the game.
A knifing run into the Wildcat defense was stopped at the 1-yard line with four seconds left. Kliefoth’s kick provided the final dagger.
“They came back, and we knew they would,” Wildcat coach Kreg Lensch said. “We needed to make a couple stops, and we didn’t make them.”
The Wildcats, however, were in the driver’s seat early.
Glidden-Ralston led 18-0 despite losing its starting running back, senior Mitchell Lensch, in the second quarter, largely because of a strong passing game.
“We did some things early we don’t normally do, and we executed well,” Lensch said.
Outside of a Trey Sander touchdown run in the second quarter, the Spartans allowed the Wildcats to score 30 points — including three passes and a run by Rodriguez — before the Exira-EHK offense started to click.
Peppers, who finished with 190 yards on 29 caries, led four touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarters to rally the Spartans.
“He’s the best athlete on the field, hands down,” Petersen said.
Even as Mitchell Lensch scored on a 73-yard run to give Glidden-Ralston a 36-30 lead with 4:03 left, Petersen said the Spartans didn’t panic.
Nick Peppers’ tough run on a two-point conversion tied the game at 36-36 with 1:39 remaining before the Spartans’ final drive.
That drive came straight out Petersen’s dream, one in which a player who originally wasn’t sure if he’d come out for football in August clinched the Spartans’ trip to the UNI-Dome.
“I guess that was a pretty important decision,” Petersen said with a laugh.
Glidden-Ralston (9-3) .................. 18 6 6 6—36
At Exira-EHK (12-0) .................. 0 7 15 17—39
GR: Adam Ewoldt 4 pass from Aaron Rodriguez (run failed)
GR: Zach Mueggenberg 39 pass from Rodriguez (run failed)
GR: Rodriguez 7 run (run failed)
E: Trey Sander 16 run (Zach Kliefoth kick)
GR: Justin Free 4 run (pass failed)
GR: Mueggenberg 12 pass from Rodriguez (run failed)
E: Drew Peppers 43 run (Kliefoth kick)
E: Drew Peppers 11 run (Nick Peppers run)
E: Drew Peppers 60 run (run failed)
GR: Mitchell Lensch 73 run (pass failed)
E: Drew Peppers 5 fun (Nick Peppers run)
E: Kliefoth 18 FG