KEOKUK — Put that all-important first “W” in the books.
The Ottumwa football team erased a 14-3 deficit on its way to a 34-21 victory at Keokuk Friday. Not only was it the first win of the season, it also marked the first victory of the Zach Pfantz era.
“I’m more satisfied with battling back from adversity then if we would have won 34-21 after being ahead the whole time,” first-year coach Pfantz said. “The mark of a good team is how we battle back from adversity.”
Pfantz said the ability to battle back when the chips are down is a character trait he has tried to instill in his players and he was glad to see that trait on full display last Friday.
Ottumwa’s win was brimming with contributors from both sides of the ball.
Offensively, Bulldog running back and team captain Seth Griffiths dipped and juked his way through the Chiefs’ defensive line for 175 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. The shifty, undersized running back’s 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter really took the wind out of Keokuk’s sails.
“I think at times he can really hide behind the line a little bit and pop out of those holes,” Pfantz said.
Before Griffiths’ long touchdown run, it was wide receiver and fellow team captain Kyle Keck who came up big for Ottumwa. The Bulldogs had whittled an 11-point Keokuk lead to 14-12 when quarterback Alex Goodvin found Keck in the middle of the field. The senior wide receiver shed a would-be tackler and scampered 34 yards for a touchdown, giving Ottumwa its first lead of the night — and of the season.
Defensively, the Bulldogs took advantage of the Chiefs, particulary starting quarterback Gabe Vandenberg’s mistakes. With the momentum squarely in Ottumwa’s favor — the Bulldogs had scored 25 unanswered points — cornerback Collin Schulz added to the Chiefs’ woes by intercepting Vandenberg — a brother of University of Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg — and taking it 48 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The touchdown gave Ottumwa a 34-14 lead. Ottumwa’s Shawn Foster also picked off Vandenberg twice in the game.
Though the Ottumwa’s defense only recorded two sacks — one each by Tyler Johns and Logan McCarty — they were able to put a lot of pressure on Keokuk’s quarterback.
“We hit the quarterback on almost every pass play from the second quarter on, and I think that contributed to some of the interceptions,” Pfantz said.
The game, however, didn’t start so swimmingly for the Bulldogs. Keokuk marched down the field with relative ease early in the first quarter. The drive was punctuated by a nine-yard touchdown reception by Dan Williams. After Michael Ingratta booted the extra point, it was 7-0 Chiefs.
“The beginning of the game they had a good game plan against us,” Pfantz said.
The Bulldogs responded by stringing together a drive of their own, but in the end, they had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Justin Vonderhaar.
The Chiefs were able to score again near the end of the first when Vandenberg found talented Chief receiver Darrion Sanders for a 76-yard touchdown reception.
The Bulldogs, however, turned things around in the second quarter. Ottumwa owes some of its offensive success that quarter — and throughout the game — to some slick kickoff and punt returns by Tyler Johns that provided Ottumwa with excellent field position.
The boys cut further into the Chiefs’ lead later in the second quarter when Griffiths finished a drive with a two-yard touchdown run that narrowed the gap to 14-12.
Ottumwa (1-1) hosts Mount Pleasant Friday at Schafer Field.
“I’m expecting a very tough game Friday night,” Pfantz said.
Ottumwa 34, Keokuk 21
Ott — 3 15 10 6 — 34
Keo — 14 0 0 7 — 21
Scoring By Quarters
K — Dan Williams 9-yard pass from Gabe Vandenberg (Michael Ingratta kick) 7:03
O — Justin Vonderhaar 26-yard field goal 2:03
K — Darrion Sanders 76-yard pass from Vandenberg (Ingratta kick) 1:55
O — Gage Fenton tackled for safety 8:51
O — Seth Griffiths 2-yard run (Vonderhaar kick) 3:55
O — Kyle Keck 34-yard pass from Alex Goodvin (pass incomplete) 1:46
O — Griffiths 77-yard (Vonderhaar kick) 5:33
O — Vonderhaar 23-yard field goal
O — Collin Schulz 48-yard interception (kick blocked by Cole Hinton) 6:06
K — Darrion Sanders 44-yard pass from Vandenberg (Ingratta good) 4:33
First downs 13 13
Rushes-yards 36-201 27-72
Passing yards 128 218
Total Yards 329 290
Comp-Att-Int 12-24-1 16-30-3
Return Yards 5-133 9-114
Fumbles-Lost 0-1 0-0
Penalties-Yds 6-41 5-35
RUSHING — Griffiths 20-175 yards, Goodvin 7-22 yards.
PASSING — Goodvin 12-24, 128 yards.
RECEIVING — Keck 4-61, Griffiths 6-35 yards, Zach Bowling 1-16, Alec Maas 1-16.
INTERCEPTIONS — Shawn Foster 2, Schulz.
TACKLES — Tyler Johns 12, Foster and Chris Peden 9 each.
RUSHING — Trevor Roth 18-89 yards, Sanders 1-9 yards, Alex Meek 1-2 yards, Vandenberg 6-1 yard.
PASSING — Vandenberg 16-30, 218 yards.
RECEIVING — Sanders 6-145 yards, Williams 4-33 yards, Bryce Baxter 3-21 yards, Meek 1-15 yards.
INTERCEPTIONS — Sanders.
TACKLES — Williams 11.