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Redhawk comeback stuns Spartans 14-13

October 5, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor (cjeilers@traerstarclipper.com) , Traer Star-Clipper

It was deja vu all over for the North Tama Redhawks. Down a score with double-digit seconds on the clock. They had seen it before at Hudson only two weeks ago. This time, however, quarterback Skyler Staker watched the games from the visitor stands. In his place, Gabe Kopriva was behind center as the Redhawks faced off at undefeated Grundy Center. The drive before ended in disaster after a trick play failed, leading to a fumble the Spartans recovered.

"We tried something we shouldn't have and it was a letdown, but we didn't hang our heads," Kopriva said. "We went and got the job down."

The Redhawk defense got it right back for the offense. Several plays later, North Tama found themselves back in the red zone and looking to score. Three receivers right, one receiver left. Tate Payne was instructed to run a slant run and went to the corner. Kopriva finds him and the rest came down to skill, athleticism and according to Coach Tom McDermott "a little bit of luck" as the senior made his second game-winning catch of 2019.

Article Photos

Tate Payne makes the game-winning catch against Grundy Center on Friday, Oct. 4 in a 14-13 District thriller.

"We normally have the backside run a slant pattern to the inside because they usually overcompensate," McDermott said. "Tate ran to the slant corner and had an excellent catch. He did that against Hudson to fight for the ball. He's a skilled athlete."

Kopriva's extra point put the Redhawks up for the first time all game 14-13, in the final seconds of the game with a backup quarterback throwing the winning play no less.

"I thought it was good coverage by the defense back on me," Payne said. "I couldn't use my other hand and I had to catch it with one hand. Gabe did very well without Staker and showed he was worthy of being the quarterback of this team."

Yet this heaping of praise from senior receiver to sophomore quarterback didn't appear to be in North Tama's future considering the struggle of the first half. Penalties and turnovers plagued the Redhawks in the first quarter as the Spartans took advantage to go up 13-0. Grundy Center would find themselves in the red zone two more times only to come up empty due to penalties of their own and the Redhawk defense rising to the occasion.

"At halftime, we had established our defense and were starting to control them with our line," McDermott said. "We needed to be patient on offense and do what we can do. You got to have a little luck too and that was a heck of a throw and a catch."

As the third quarter wound down, the Redhawk put together their best drive of the evening, capped off by Noah Weber running in for two. The defense continued to pump out stops as they held strong in the middle and kept star Grundy Center quarterback Logan Knaack humble after several early runs. While a near interception caused a tense fourth quarter, the Redhawks made their way down to the field on their next drive, hoping to go up with the aforementioned trick play.

"We tried a trick play that didn't work out for us, yet our defense stepped up for us to get a stop," McDermott said. "I don't know many times are a charm, but that was a heck of a football team we faced. They got size, strength, speed, run the ball well, throw well and outstanding defensively. We were fortunate to find a way to win and now we have to build off this."

Payne's catch proved to be the final blow as a hail mary from the Spartans fell short of a miracle, giving Grundy Center their first loss of the season.

"At the beginning of the week, we said someone has to step up," McDermott said. "Goodnight, Gabe in particular stepped up. Noah Weber runs like a wildman and it showed tonight."

A full recap of North Tama's win over Grundy Center will be published in the October 11 issue of The Traer-Star Clipper. The Redhawks are 6-0 (4-0 District 7) and will host GMG on Friday, Oct. 11.

 
 
 

 

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