CEDAR RAPIDS — The call was gutsy. The defensive stand was gutsier.
Dubuque Hempstead threatened to score a go-ahead 2-point conversion with seconds remaining, but Cedar Rapids Prairie produced the winning stand.
Prairie thwarted a 2-point run with seven seconds remaining to secure a 28-27 victory over the Mustangs in a Class 4A District 3 prep football game Friday night at John Wall Field.
Prairie remained perfect in district play, improving to 4-2 and 2-0. The Mustangs fell to 2-4 and 0-2.
“When it counted, our kids battled and that’s the signature for what we look for in a staff,” Prairie Coach Mark Bliss said. “How do our kids battle and how hard-nosed can they be when we’ve got to have it? Our kids found a way to step up and make it work.”
Prairie seemed to be in control when Nick Pearson rushed for his second fourth-quarter touchdown, leading 28-21 with 1:31 to go.
Hempstead resorted to big pass plays that helped it score three previous touchdowns.
Aidan Dunne, who threw TDs of 69 and 83 yards to KeShaun Hill and a 39-yarder to Elijah Herrion, passed for gains of 34 and a pair of 14-yarders before hitting Herrion on a 7-yard TD to set up the defining play.
Dunne passed for 301 yards and four TDs, including a bomb to Hill for the first score with one second left before halftime.
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When the Mustangs lined up for the conversion, Bliss called timeout and set up the defense. Linebacker Lane Swazrtendruber led the charge, stopping Dunne for a short gain to preserve the lead.
“That was huge,” Swartzendruber said. “We knew this was do or die. We knew we had to make a stand if we still wanted that shot for a district championship.”
Prairie scored a pair of touchdowns off turnovers and recovered three fumbles. One led to a 21-yard TD pass from Hunter Williams to Swartzendruber for a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Another resulted in Pearson’s 1-yard score early in the fourth for a 21-14 edge.
“There’s no question it was very pivotal on our part, being able to capitalize on the turnovers,” Bliss said. “It was good.
“Our kids rallied around each other when it needed to be done and found a way.”
Prairie’s Tariq Amir scored the opening touchdown, bursting through the center of the defense for a 69-yard score in the opening quarter. He finished with 136 yards rushing. Pearson added 126 yards rushing for the Hawks.
“I give total credit to our line and Coach Bliss,” Pearson said. “They run the plays perfectly. I can park a semi in there.”
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