It's hard to find any other way to describe how top-ranked Newell-Fonda's dream season came to a nightmarish end on their home field Friday as Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn rallied for 16 points in the final three minutes, including a 28-yard touchdown strike from Tanner Utesch to Dylan Spieler with 15 seconds left, to knock the Mustangs out of the playoffs a game shy of the dome, 42-38.
"Words can't really express how I feel right now, how the kids feel," said Newell-Fonda head coach Brian Wilken. "It's a tough, tough thing, trying to figure out why. The thing that's so tough now is that it's over. It's over for all of us. There's going to be a void in our life."
The Eagles had an answer as they marched down the field, and Andrew Hoefling punched in a 12-yard run. Utesch was good on the conversion run for an 8-6 N-F deficit.
The Mustangs countered quickly as Sievers found Rigo Johnson on a 36-yard swing pass, setting up a 15-yard Brady Bohe run. The conversion would fail again, however, as the N-F lead was 12-8.
M-M-C got to marching again, but their drive stalled out, and their field goal try was wide left.
Newell-Fonda took advantage as Jonathan Johnson ripped off a dazzling 40-yard run, making way for an eventual one-yard TD by Bohe. Again, the conversion failed for an 18-8 game at the end of the first.
Bohe would punch in his third score on a 5-yard run two minutes into the second quarter, giving N-F a 24-8 advantage.
Hoefling brought the Eagles back within reach midway through the second as a 12-yard run made it a 24-14 game.
Jonathan Johnson had an answer a minute later for Newell-Fonda, scoring from 21-yards out. That two-point try would be good to make it 32-14.
M-M-C would get one back before halftime, however, as Utesch hit Hoefling for a 19-yard gain. He would fumble the ball upon contact, but Jarod Gross fell on it in the endzone to make the halftime score 32-20 in favor of Newell-Fonda.
The third would see the Mustangs turn the Eagles back from the endzone on a 4th-and-goal try from the one-yard line. N-F wouldn't find any scoring in the quarter, though, as an avalanche of penalty flags saw their offense grind to a halt.
Jonathan Johnson looked to push it to a three-score ball game, but his 20-yard TD was called back for a hold. A second holding call and a personal foul penalty followed, giving the Mustangs a 1st-and-42 back on their own 30-yard line. Then, A fumble by Bohe was recovered by the Eagles. Utesch took advantage, hooking up with Spieler for a 19-yard pass. A pair of runs brought the ball down to the five, where Hoefling punched it in again to make it 32-26 with under six minutes left in the game."
Newell-Fonda's next drive never got any momentum going, but the Mustangs opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 back on their own 25-yard line. Sievers was stuffed short on a keeper, and M-M-C had a short field in front of them.
Utesch hit Isaiah Peterson a quick 15-yard strike. Rigo Johnson would then stuff Hoefling for a two yard loss, and Jake Hahn and Tom Deveraux combined on a three-yard sack.
Undeterred, Utesch went to his favorite target of the night yet again, hitting Spieler for a 15-yard touchdown. The two-point pass to Hoefling was good for a 34-32 M-M-C lead with 2:31 to play.
N-F opened with a three straight Bohe runs to pick up a first down at the 32. Sievers connected with Rigo Johnson on a quick out that he took down across the 36-yard line. Jonathan Johnson ripped off a 20-yarder to take it down to the 15, Bohe carried it down the the six, and Jonathan Johnson punched it in from there for a score with 45 seconds left. The two-point try failed, making it 38-34.
The Mustangs opted for a prevent defense, and Utesch took advantage, finding Petersen for a big gain up to the 36-yard line. He hit Petersen again, who got out of bounds at the 28 to stop the clock. Then Utesch went back to Spieler, who made the diving grab in the endzone with 15 seconds left. Their two point conversion was good.
N-F's kick return netted a minimal gain. Sievers went long for Anderson on first down, firing long and leaving one second on the clock. The Mustangs dialed up a hook and ladder and tried to lateral their way into open space, but the Eagles snuffed it out to end the game and pull off the upset, having outscored N-F 22-6 in the second half.
The Mustangs out-gained M-M-C 525-to-345 on the night, but they were whistled for12 penalties that totaled 127 yards.
Jonathan Johnson finished with 15 carries for 128 yards, Sievers ran 18 times for 109 yards, Bohe 18 for 90 and Rigo two for 17, giving N-F 344 rushing yards on the night. Sievers was 8-of-18 for 181 yards.
Hoeffling totaled 86 yards rushing on 21 carries for M-M-C. Utesch was 22-of-36 passing for 236 yards and 3TDs. The Eagles improve to 12-0 and will be among the final four Thursday at the UNI Dome.
The Mustangs end their year with a record of 11-1. They lose eight seniors in Sievers, Hahn, Jonathan Johnson, Rigo Johnson, Luis Cardenas, Tom Devereaux, Billy Leek and Matt Juilfs.
"They're a great group of kids," said Wilken. "They played their hearts out. They played to the very end. It just didn't work out. A tremendous group of kids, awfully special."