116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
TROY MILLS — Excuses? Alburnett had plenty of them to use in Friday night's season opener against No. 4 North Linn.
In the first half, the Pirates had a 25-yard scoring pass wiped away by an offensive pass interference call. Then in the final three minutes of the game, North Linn took the lead on a 29-yard pass from Tate Haugenbury to Cael Bridgewater.
The Pirates didn't panic. Two plays after the Lynx took a 13-9 lead, Mason Neighbor connected with Grayson Carolan on a 75-yard touchdown pass with 2:02 remaining, giving Alburnett a 16-13 upset win at North Linn High School.
The hosts were a big favorite entering the contest, coming off a strong finish in 2021, They blanked Alburnett in last year's opener, but it was apparent early on that things would be different this time around.
“The way we practiced all summer long definitely helped us overcome the adversity tonight,” said Pirates Coach Rich Velasquez. “Our coaches had a great game plan and the kids executed.”
Alburnett controlled the play for much of the first half. Senior Josh Howe, a newcomer to the Pirate program after transferring in for this year, was a disruptive force on the defensive line all night. The Lynx were able to break off a couple of long plays, but were never able to sustain any long drives until the one that gave them the lead in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively, we were solid all night,” Velasquez said. “We had a couple of plays get away from us, but for the most part we were able to keep them under control.”
A 23-yard Sam Severson field goal in the first quarter gave Alburnett a 3-0 lead. The TD pass that was taken off the board would have given the Pirates an even bigger lead, but the North Linn defense rose up and got the ball back. With just under two minutes left in the half, Haughenbury, who battled through cramping issues over the final two quarters, connected with Ben Wheatley, who weaved his way past several Pirate defenders to give the Lynx a 7-3 lead at the break.
Carson Neighbor made a big play early in the third quarter, stepping in front of a receiver for an interception and taking the ball inside the North Linn 5-yard line, where Brody Neighbor powered it in for the go-ahead score with 9:17 left in the third.
It appeared that might end up being the winning score until Haughenbury led the Lynx on an 80-yard scoring march, capped off by Bridgewater's diving catch in the end zone.
Two plays later that was all forgotten as Mason Neighbor hit a streaking Carolan up the sideline. He went untouched into the end zone.
“The whole game they had been playing 1-on-1 against our receivers with the safeties helping,” said Mason Neighbor. “On that play, I saw that the safety didn't get over there as fast so I threw it where I hoped he was going and he got it and went in from there.”
Haughenbury was 14-of-25 for 180 yards and two scores. Mason Bechen led the Lynx with 73 rushing yards.
“They smoked us last year at our place,” Mason Neighbor said. “It feels really good to come into their house and beat them.”
Alburnett 16, North Linn 13
At Troy Mills
First downs 8 12
Rushes-yards 28-11 23-101
Passing yards 203 232
Comp-Att-Int 14-26-1 17-28-2
Punts-Avg. 8-32.8 8-27.6
Fumbles-lost 1-0 4-1
Penalties-Yards 5-59 6-68
Alburnett 3 0 6 7 — 16
North Linn 0 7 0 6 — 13
A — FG Sam Severson 23
NL — Ben Wheatley 52 pass from Tate Haughenbury (Theo Boss kick)
A — Brody Neighbor 4 run (kick failed)
NL — Cael Bridgewater 29 pass from Haughenbury (run failed)
A — Grayson Carolan 75 pass from Mason Neighbor (Severson kick)
RUSHING - Alburnett: Carson Klostermann 16-32, Brody Neighbor 4-1, Mason Neighbor 6-(minus 23), Roy McGargill 2-1. North Linn: Tate Haughenbury 6-21, Landen Helmrich 3-3, Mason Bechen 10-73, Cael Bridgewater 4-4
PASSING - Alburnett: Mason Neighbor 14-26-1-203. North Linn: Tate Haughenbury 14-25-2-180, Jake VanEtten 3-3-0-52
RECEIVING - Alburnett: Grayson Carolan 5-109, Braydon Osborn 3-53, Payton Baker 2-8, Carson Klosterman 3-20, Brody Neighbor 1-13. North Linn: Cael Bridgewater 6-103, Ben Wheatley 3-60, Jake Van Etten 2-11, Mason Bechen 4-50, Landon Miller 1-6, Landen Helmrich 1-2