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CEDAR RAPIDS - Defense and special teams kept Luther close.
The Norse's signature triple-option rush attack helped chip away at the lead, but it was the passing game that made the biggest impact in the end.
Luther quarterback Brady Letney threw for two touchdowns after regulation, including a 23-yard strike to Trevor Joiner for the game-winning score in a 36-28 triple overtime come-from-behind Iowa Conference thriller over Coe Saturday at Clark Field.
The Norse (5-3, 4-2 IIAC) eclipsed a two-score deficit in the final quarter and has the most wins in a season since a 6-4 season in 2005. They also snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Kohawks (3-5, 1-5).
'Just got to love the heart of our team,” Luther Coach Aaron Hafner said. 'They just continued to fight down 14 in the fourth quarter.
'Coe played hard today. It was just a well-fought game and to go three overtimes and get the win is a big deal for us to get five wins and continue to prove our program.”
On the third play of overtime, Letney threw back across the field and hit Joiner for his first career touchdown. Sam Houlihan took a pitch and waltzed in untouched for the conversion and eight-point lead. Coe seemed to answer on its next possession, executing an open-field screen pass that had enough for a first down. The ball popped out and Luther's Sam Scheidt pounced on it to end the game.
'I saw him running the ball pretty loosely,” Luther defensive back Luke Pulliam said. 'We've been talking about it all week.
'We have to rip the ball out. We have to get a turnover. If we were going to win this game, we had to get a turnover. I just went for it at the end. Luckily, we came out with it and got the win.”
Letney played a major role in the Norse comeback, having his hands in all five touchdowns. He rushed for touchdowns of 2 and 1 yards, capping off a pair of 13-play drives in the fourth and tying the game at 14-14. Letney even gave the Norse a chance to win in regulation, but Coe blocked a 31-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
The Norse began to loosen a stingy Coe defense up with the pass. Letney connected with Justin Montgomery three times for 34 yards on the first scoring drive and twice for 48 on the next, including a 43-yard gain to the Coe 31.
'When we mix it in, it's hard to stop both the triple (option) and our passing game,” Letney said. 'We really showed that today. It was a total team effort. Awesome job.”
Letney threw for a career-high 163 yards and Montgomery set career bests with eight catches and 119 receiving yards. Letney has battled injury, getting knocked out of last week's loss to Wartburg in the second quarter. Hafner said Letney was back to practice Monday, despite not being able to lift his shoulder above his waist.
'Just got to love his heart and how hard he plays,” Hafner said of Letney. 'He's become a great leader for this offense.”
In the first overtime, Letney hit longtime friend Nick Slavens in the end zone. Slavens, who led Luther with 90 rushing yards, was able to slip behind the linebackers and made the basket catch before falling backward to the ground.
The pair were teammates at Pleasant Valley High School and shared a big bear hug after the postgame huddle.
'It's a great feeling,” said Letney, who also had a 1-yard TD in the second OT. 'He's my best friend. He's been my best friend since high school.
'He took two years off and I convinced him to come up here. He's been out his junior and senior year. It's been awesome. I love the kid.”
Coe traded blows with the Norse in overtime. Quentin White helped Coe force a second overtime, hitting Mitch Stopko in the back of the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the 13.
Coe opened the second OT with the ball and took a 28-21 lead. Drew Heitland, the Kohawks' starting defensive end, made a leaping, outstretched catch on a Max Ridenour pass in the back right corner for Coe's final score.
Coe built a 14-0 lead with four minutes remaining in the third. Ridenour, who shared snaps with White, had his hands in both touchdowns. He put the Kohawks on the board with a 29-yard run, finishing off a drive after two previous Coe possessions stalled deep in Luther territory.
Ridenour connected on a 12-yard pass to senior Demetrius Harper, who made the catch in the back right corner, getting his feet inside the end line with a defender in his face. Harper had another solid performance with 98 receiving yards on seven catches.
Tino Green finished with 123 total yards, including 90 on the ground. Unfortunately, the Kohawks couldn't avoid its fifth straight loss, falling to 3-5 overall and 1-5 in the IIAC.
'It was a back-and-forth game,” Coe Coach Tyler Staker said. 'Our guys battled until the end. We made some big plays on fourth down offensively to keep us in it. It's tough when you lose tight ballgames like this.”
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