NEOLA, Iowa — Treynor found a way again.
For the third straight week, the Cardinals pulled out a tight game in the final period.
Treynor started Friday's game without seven starters. It lost an eighth to a concussion.
Still, the Cardinals rallied with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to edge Tri-Center 14-6 to improve to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in Class 1-A District 8 play.
“They're just finding something deep inside of them, a real will and character to come back,” Treynor coach Steve Owens said. “They just keep doing it. There is just some heart in them. I take my hat off to seven seniors who just refuse to stop playing. They just keep going.”
The Cardinals trailed 6-0 and had 53 total yards entering the fourth quarter. They hadn't picked up a first down against the Trojan defense since their second series in the first period.
Dane Livengood's 32-yard punt return in the final seconds in the third gave Treynor the spark it needed. He caught the ball off a hop and carried it all the way back to the Tri-Center 39.
“I started slowing up, saw it bounce up and I was like 'Ooh, I can take this,'” the senior running back said. “I had three good blocks, and it just worked out exactly as I wanted.”
Livengood picked up a first down, the first for the Cardinals since the opening minutes of the game, on the third play of the fourth quarter. A loss, an incompletion and a penalty soon put Treynor in a fourth-and-9, however, at the Trojan 25.
Trey Robinson then came up with a big completion. The junior quarterback, on his 17th birthday, found tight end Jacob Flathers for a 10-yard gain.
“The coaches wanted a different play, but Dane and I both decided that we saw something else,” Robinson said. “We told (Flathers) just to fill where the linebacker had left. He stepped up and made sure he caught it and secured it.”
Four plays later, Flathers hauled in a 3-yard scoring pass from Robinson to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead with 9:28 to play. Livengood later extended the lead with a 41-yard touchdown run with 4:53 left.
The senior entered the game with 524 rushing yards, fourth-best in 1-A. But Tri-Center had limited him to only a yard per carry through three quarters. Livengood had a pair of long runs in the final period, including the touchdown, to finish with 102 yards.
He said the Cardinals never got frustrated despite their offensive struggles.
“That's what we've done the last three weeks. I think we're used to it now,” Livengood said. “This was right up our alley, just gutting it out until the end.”
The Trojans (1-3, 0-1) outgained Treynor by more than 100 yards, yet scored only six points.
“We're still moving the ball well, but we're not a big-play offense. And it's catching up with us,” Tri-Center coach John Tiarks said. “We just can't afford to get off-schedule.”
The Cardinals had seven first downs in the final period after having only two in the prior three.
“We told them at halftime it was going to come down to four or five plays,” Owens said. “They responded after (Tri-Center) scored. It is something inside of them that says, 'We're going to keep going.'”
The coach said his players are living up to the motto his seniors picked after last season. They chose the Latin phrase “ad finem,” which means “to the end.”
In the last three weeks, they've overcome Red Oak, West Central Valley and Tri-Center.
“They're going to play to finish,” Owens said.
Treynor (3-1, 2-0) ................................... 0 0 0 14—14
At Tri-Center (1-3, 0-1) ............................ 0 0 6 0— 6
TC: Ben Wellman 23 run (kick blocked)
T: Jacob Flathers 3 pass from Trey Robinson (Ben Chapin kick)
T: Dane Livengood 41 run (Chapin kick)
RUSHING: T, Livengood 29-102, Robinson 9-19, Young 1-(-3), Beard 1-(-8). TC, Wellman 25-144, Christensen 17-80, Hoke 7-31, Huebner 6-(-16), Manhart 4-14, Zimmerman 4-(-2).
PASSING: T, Robinson 7-17-1 67. TC, Zimmerman 2-5-1 1, Huebner 2-4-0 28.
RECEIVING: T, Flathers 3-36, Livengood 2-29, Calfee 1-1, Young 1-1. TC, Schnitker 1-20, Wellman 1-8, Manhart 1-3, Huebner 1-(-2).