MARENGO — Garet Sims wasn’t sure whether he would stay up Friday night and catch the playoff pairings.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m going deer hunting in the morning; maybe I’ll wait and see it then.”
Sims scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 35-yard pass from Ben Smith on fourth-and-9 with 4:59 to go, and third-ranked Iowa Valley held off HLV, 32-30, to clinch the 8-Player District 4 football championship at the Iowa Valley athletics complex.
“I knew this was going to be a heck of a district, and to win it ... that feels really good,” Sims said.
The Tigers (9-0 overall, 8-0 district) will host a first-round playoff game next Friday.
With Iowa Valley holding a 26-22 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Coach Cody Snitker gambled. And the Smith-to-Sims combo made it pay off.
Sims originally lined up as an offensive lineman, then shifted back to the backfield. On the snap, he sprinted down the middle of the field to get open, and Smith lofted it to him for the score.
“We ran it earlier in the game, and they didn’t really cover it,” Sims said. “At first, I thought (Smith) overthrew me.”
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HLV (7-2, 6-2) got within 32-30 moments later on a 22-yard pass fom Cody Frahm to Dean Shaull, then got the ball back after Iowa Valley punted it away with 2:26 left.
But the Warriors fumbled on the first play of their final possession — their third costly turnover of the game — and the Tigers ran out the clock.
HLV could have earned a share of the district title with a win, and played as an equal (at least) of the Tigers, outgaining the hosts 329-286. But turnovers were the difference.
The pivotal moment of the game came midway in the second quarter. HLV led 16-14 and drove to the Iowa Valley 1 before fumbling it near the goal line.
“That’s why you keep pounding, pounding every play,” Snitker said. “That’s why you play every down like it’s the most meaningful down of the game.”
Iowa Valley then drove 79-plus yards in seven plays, capped by a 36-yard run by Gavin Patterson to put the Tigers in front, 20-16. That’s how it stood at halftime, because the Warriors threw an interception in the end zone just before intermission.
HLV went up 22-20 on Chase Sternhagen’s 5-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter, but Iowa Valley made the final statement.
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