116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Early on, Ottumwa looked the part, but deflating turnovers and a multi-faceted offensive attack eventually overwhelmed the Bulldogs as Cedar Rapids Prairie took a 49-14 homecoming win Friday night at home.
Ottumwa’s dynamic backfield gave the Class 5A eighth-ranked Hawks fits for much of the first half, but the Prairie defense increasingly found itself in the Bulldogs’ backfield as the game snowballed in Prairie’s favor.
It was interesting early.
“The biggest thing that (Ottumwa) did to us, they came out and did a lot of belly, or veer,” Prairie Coach Mark Bliss said. “That gave us some bad looks in the first half with our linebacker reads. As the game went on we were able to make our adjustments.”
The Hawks’ (4-1) first possession stalled out at their own 42. Going for it on fourth-and-6, Cal Sullivan’s pass fell incomplete.
Big fullback Cooper Derby took Ottumwa’s first snap and rumbled 42 yards into the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead.
Prairie responded with a 75-yard kickoff return to the Ottumwa 19. Makelle Taylor scored from 14 yards out two plays later to tie the score, 7-7, with 8:28 left in the first quarter.
Ottumwa (2-3) continued to rip off big runs on its ensuing possession, crossing midfield. From the Prairie 37, there was a fumble on the exchange and the Hawks fell on it.
Sullivan found Taylor open on the right sideline. Taylor shook off a handful of tackles and found himself with open field, scampering in for a 59-yard touchdown.
Again, moving the ball into Prairie territory, Tanner Schark’s first pass of the game was picked off by Jack Wagemester. The Bulldogs offense would never be the same.
“Our linebackers did a great job adjusting toward the end of the game,” Wagemester said. “We were able to handle business.”
On the other end, after turning it over on downs on their first possession, the Hawks rattled off seven touchdown drives in a row. The Hawks moved the ball at will with a combination of ball carriers while mixing in the pass.
Casey Kelley used a few nifty open-field jukes to score from 9 yards out. Sullivan found Taylor again from 8 yards out as the Hawks seized a 28-7 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs fumbled their first snap of the second half. Taylor punctuated the short 42-yard drive from 6 yards out, his fourth touchdown of the game. He finished with 148 yards of total offense.
Prairie outgained the Bulldogs 365-247, with all of Ottumwa’s yards coming on the ground.
“The thing about it, sometimes you have to wake up a little bit,” Bliss said. “(Ottumwa) shutting us down in that first possession makes us open our eyes a little bit, and our kids realized that they’re in for a fight and they came out and did what we asked them to do.”
The win has Prairie sitting at 4-1, the same record it had a year ago on its way to a state quarterfinal appearance.
“We just have to keep getting better,” Wagemester said. “At the beginning we weren’t really happy with how we played, but we just keep getting better as a group.”
The Hawks host Waterloo West next week before taking a trip to fourth-ranked Southeast Polk.