After early score-fest, Tornadoes hang on for 35-34 win
STORM LAKE - You know that fan who’s always late to the game, and wants to know what he missed?
You didn’t want to be that guy Friday night.
Within 26 seconds, Algona and Storm Lake had each put up a wild touchdown play. Offenses ran roughshod in the first half, defenses took over in the second, and in the end, a foiled Algona decision to go for a two-point conversion and the win instead of the tie let the Tornadoes escape with a 35-34 win.
Storm Lake moves to 3-0 and chalks up its first District win, as Algona suffers its first loss. The Tornadoes face a tough task next Friday, traveling to the new turf of Bishop Heelan.
Algona caught the Tornadoes napping Friday for an 80 yard pass play for a touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage, as Matt Grein rolled out and found Wyatt Wegener on play action.
“The first play of the game was a blown coverage,” Storm Lake Coach Rudy Wieck said after the game. “We just got burnt.”
Storm Lake came right back on their first play from scrimmage for a 65 yard TD, quarterback Kevin Duque handing off to his fullback Brayden Hoops, taking the pitch back flea-flicker style and nailing wide-open wideout Jake Heitman. It was 7-7 before the first 30 seconds of the game had been played.
“We knew we were going to open with that play,” Wieck said.
The Bulldogs then broke Storm Lake’s coverage on the kickoff, returning the ball 44 yards before Sami Damanhoury made a TD-saving tackle. Algona took it the remainder of the way all on the ground, as Skyler Groen swept around for a 13-yard score. Storm Lake would fumble the ball away on their next possession, giving Algona possession near midfield. They cashed in on the next play with a 55-yard TD strike to Spencer Holmes, and five minutes into the contest Storm Lake trailed 21-7. The Tornadoes responded again with a long kickoff return by Lamar Mulgae. Storm Lake rolled the dice on a fourth-and-one, with Hoops coming through for a big gainer up the middle, and following up with a short TD run two plays later. Algona led 21-14 after a quarter.
The fireworks continued, as Storm Lake’s Mulgae raced up the sideline 54 yards for a score on the first play of the second quarter. Another PAT from steady Gerardo Rosiles tied the contest. The Tornado defense began to assert itself, stopping the ‘Dogs to force a punt for the second straight possession. The Tornadoes would immediately give it back deep in their own territory on a muffed handoff. Skyler Groen carried it in a few plays later. Storm Lake would put together a 55-yard drive capped by a Hoops one-yard plunge, and it was knotted at 28 at the break.
“It was not a good half of football. We told them we’re in this game,” Wieck said. “Hats off to the seniors for helping pick up their younger teammates.”
Neither team could get any traction on first possessions of the second half. The Bulldogs moved to Storm Lake’s red zone on their second drive, but coughed up the ball. Storm Lake went for it on fourth and one on their own side of the field, and earned a first down by inches. The gambit payed off moments later as Manny Chavez deployed his blocking 13 yards for an unmolested score, giving Storm Lake their first lead 35-28 as the third period expired.
The Tornado defense delivered a three-and-out effort to start the fourth that would be a defensive battle. Algona mounted a desperate drive in the late minutes, and aided by a pass interference call, marched to the SL 10, where Wegener burst through for the score. The Bulldogs called time, faced with a critical decision between a potentially tying field goal and a conversion try for the lead. They went for two, and a loft to the back of the end zone was deflected with 1:45 to play. Algona’s on-side kick try failed, and Storm Lake cautiously kept the ball on the ground, where a first-down keeper from Duque sewed up the win.
Algona had 369 yards of offense, including 11 of 20 passing for 213. Storm Lake shined on the ground with 48 rushes for 287 yards, along with five of 11 in the air for 105. Each team had five penalties and two turnovers, as Storm Lake put the ball on the ground four times.
Wieck said he was impressed with visiting Algona, a team that has rebounded from an 0-9 season and a 41-6 drubbing from the Tornadoes a year ago, especially their swarming defense. His Tornadoes will need to play more solid defense and eliminate fumble issues to continue its success.
“We had some mental errors that led to the fumbles, it just wasn’t one direct person,” Wieck said. “Algona was also ripping at the ball every play.”
Two Tornadoes went down during the contest: senior Chris Shima left and was in a boot on the sidelines as Coach Wieck stated he’d be getting an x-ray. Senior Jorge Ventura also departed the game with a hamstring issue.
Next week’s opponent for the Tornadoes, Heelan, after impressive wins over Sioux City East and Carroll, stumbled Friday in a 35-28 loss at Sgt. Bluff-Luton. Heelan came into Friday’s game ranked #3 in 3A, while Storm Lake was #7.