CEDAR RAPIDS — Wartburg’s Matt Sacia needed one. He finished with four.
Now, the senior quarterback is the Knights’ most prolific touchdown passer.
Sacia threw four scores, including three to JoJo McNair, and propelled Wartburg to a 31-19 American Rivers Conference victory over Coe Saturday at Clark Field. The Knights (4-2, 3-1 A-R-C) moved into a four-way tie for second with a home showdown against league leader Central next week.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Sacia said. “The big thing is we got the job done. We got the win.”
Sacia moved into first on Wartburg’s all-time list with 74 career TD passes, breaking Logan Schrader’s 71 from 2012-15. He was 29 of 42 for 379 yards Saturday, but had his struggles.
The Kohawks (3-4, 1-3) sacked Sacia in the end zone for a safety on Wartburg’s second possession. He was also picked off three times, including one that Coe freshman A.J. Christensen returned 72 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
“Matt is very poised and is unfazed,” Wartburg coach Rick Willis said. “There were a few things that happened out there to him today that were uncharacteristic but he didn’t let it shake him. He came back and led us the way he always does.”
Sacia connected on three scoring strikes in the first half, including two after the mistake that gave Coe a brief 9-7 lead.
McNair reeled in his second touchdown, catching a 13-yard pass in the back right corner of the end zone for a 14-9 advantage. The duo hooked up on the Knights’ first TD — an 18-yarder set up by a blocked punt that gave Wartburg the ball at the Coe 15 — with 3:45 left in the first quarter.
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Wartburg took the lead for good on former Anamosa prep Kolin Schulte’s acrobatic catch in the end zone, making a one-handed grab and getting a foot in bounds while twisting and tumbling out of bounds. Schulte made it 21-9 with 59 seconds left in the half and tallied 150 yards on seven catches.
McNair added a 10-yard TD catch with 10:38 to go, putting Wartburg up 28-19 and answering a Cody Russell 4-yard run that pulled Coe within 2 about three minutes earlier.
McNair had 104 yards and eight receptions. Sacia has two capable targets in McNair and Schulte.
“Those guys are incredible athletes,” Sacia said. “You can put JoJo just about anywhere on the field. You know he is going to make plays. That is something real special to have on a team.”
Coe had its opportunities, driving deep into Wartburg territory and turning the ball over. The first came early in the second. The Kohawks reached the 15, committed a penalty and allowed a sacked that resulted in a lost fumble.
Coe reached the Wartburg 5 with three minutes left, down 12. A pass over the middle looked like a short completion but turned into an interception when Connor Frerichs wrestled the ball away.
Coe was outgained 492-338 and only managed 86 yards on the ground. Max Ridenour, who got the nod at quarterback, threw for 252 and rushed for 345 to lead Coe.
“We had our opportunities and we let some of those slip away,” said Coe Coach Tyler Staker, noting those two turnovers. “We’ve got to improve on offense. That is evident. I feel our defense is playing well and doing good things. We need to improve on offense.”
The defense forced four turnovers and accounted for almost half of the Kohawks’ points. Staker said he couldn’t fault the effort, but the team hasn’t been consistent for four quarters.
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“I was happy with how our guys fought,” Staker said. “We were in the game all the way until the end. We just came up short. It’s the little things that are hurting us.”
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