Storm Lake stumbled at times Friday night, but in the end escaped from Sheldon with an exciting win as junior Ben Thompson stretched every inch of his 5'11" frame to outleap Orab defenders and haul in the game-winning touchdown toss from Nick Sorbe.
"We started out this game playing really good, aggressive football, then in the second and third quarters Sheldon put us back on our heels, and in the fourth quarter we rallied and put them on their heels," Coach Bill McCabe said.
Storm Lake scored on their first three drives of the game, starting with a Sorbe 1-yard plunge to cap a 63-yard drive. After a fumble recovery, the Tornadoes scored on a 17-yard strike from Sorbe to Smith, and added a two-point conversion. Sorbe broke away for a 40-yard run for a third touchdown.
Sheldon came back in the second quarter, led by quarterback Keith VanBeek, scoring a rushing TD, and adding a 13-yard scoring pass to Brent Thornton. Tyler Wendt intercepted the Orabs late in the half to prevent another scoring opportunity. The Storm Lake offense sputtered.
Storm Lake and Sheldon were knotted at 20 through much of the second half. Mike Keller broke away on a 48-yard tun, but the touchdown was called back on a penalty. Sorbe hit Thompson for the winning score with four minutes to play, failing in a two-point conversion try. Sophomore Logan Masters intercepted Sheldon to lock up the game.
McCabe noted that Storm Lake's running game will need considerable work.
Of the 95 yard the Tornadoes gained on the ground, 94 of them belonged to quarterback Sorbe, he said. Sorbe actually had over 100 yards rushing until taking a knee on the final plays to run out the clock.
"Nick can run and he can throw, but we need to run better behind him. When our backs did get nice yards, it seemed like we would lose it on a fumble," McCabe said.
"Our players should be very happy to get this win, and it's a great way to start the season," the Tornado mentor said, "but we realize that we have to play better to compete in our district."
Miscues and penalties haunted the Tornadoes, with four turnovers on three interceptions and a penalty, and 10 penalties for nealry 100 yards total. "We will be working on cutting out those penalties. That's what concerns me most," McCabe said.
Sorbe numbers were impressive - 231 yards in the air on 20 of 29 passing, 94 yards on the ground, running for two scores and throwing for two more. Storm Lake totaled 327 yards of offense to 243 for Sheldon.
Storm Lake opens at home next Friday, hosting a Cherokee team that has revamped its scheme from a running team into more of a passing offense.