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Lincoln pushes Ottumwas back to the wall

October 11, 2011
Ottumwa High School

Lincoln pushes Ottumwa’s back to the wall

OTTUMWA — The road to redemption.

Life is filled with second chances – opportunities given to redeem one’s self on a daily basis.

The game of football is no different.

The Ottumwa Bulldogs are hoping for just that — and some breaks to go their way.

After all that has not gone the way of the Bulldogs this fall – there’s still the possibility of recovery from a season that hasn’t gone as planned.

That chance to right what has gone wrong comes in the form of a playoff contest.

Not every team can say that.

Seven teams on the west side of the state in Class 4A will not make the 32-team playoffs — divided into 16-team brackets on the east and west sides of the state. Currently those teams that would be omitted from playing a 10th game laid out by the large-school point system are Sioux City North, Mason City, Sioux City West, Des Moines Hoover, Indianola, Des Moines North and Ottumwa. The last postseason team and final 16th entrant in the west is Council Bluffs Jefferson. Ottumwa is 20th in points. That’s if the season ended today. There’s two weeks left to determine who has the chance to play on the carpet of the UNI-Dome once playoff berths are awarded on Friday, Oct. 21.

Ottumwa’s going to need some luck to extend its season — not to mention a win.

The Bulldogs are off this Friday night. Ottumwa (2-6, 2-2) ends the regular season at Des Moines Roosevelt (3-5, 2-1), Friday Oct. 21. The Roughriders are 13th in points.

Not many in the state would have thought that with one game left in the regular season that the Bulldogs and head coach Zach Wigle would be aiming for their third win of the season.

But that’s exactly where Ottumwa sits. Ottumwa, now 2-6 overall, is in the latter stages of its first losing regular season since 1990.

The Bulldogs experienced a rushing juggernaut in the form of Des Moines Lincoln last Friday night in the Bulldogs’ final home game. Lincoln overcame a 23-13 first-half deficit and went on to score 27 unanswered points en route to 499 rushing yards and a 49-31 CIML Metro win over OHS. Lincoln never punted and bounced back after two first-half fumbles halted drives.

A key turning point in the game came at the 5:32 mark of the third quarter, with Lincoln leading 26-23. On a 3rd-and-7 at the Lincoln 37-yard line, Railsplitter quarterback Michael Downing overshot his receiver and the pigskin instead found the arms of Ben Kramer. Kramer picked off the pass and returned it inside the Railsplitter 20. A questionable defensive holding call negated the game-shifter. Lincoln would go on to score on that drive to push its advantage to a 10-point margin with 1:57 remaining before the final quarter of play. Lincoln converted on a 4th-and-2 at the Bulldog 46 with 3:45 left in the third on the drive. Lincoln gained possession of the ball after a pass intended for Kramer deep right sideline was intercepted.

Class 4A’s leading rushing attack — minus its main weapon in Kee’Von Bernstine — continued to roll.

Lincoln scored in just two plays on its next series, capped by Kippie Ward’s 33-yard untouched scoring scamper early fourth quarter to make it 40-23. Lincoln received the ball in Bulldog territory after a six-yard punt.

Ward — who rushed for 198 yards — would have an interception for a touchdown called back because of interference with 10:21 remaining in the contest. Ward also saw his 66-yard run in the third quarter get called back because of a yellow flag thrown on the field for holding.

Ottumwa still had life after Kramer’s five-yard rushing touchdown. Alex Goodvin completed a two-point scoring pass on the point after to make it 40-31 Lincoln with just over six minutes left on the clock.

Ottumwa forced a turnover on downs after Lucas McIntosh helped stuff a fourth-and-goal at the two-yard line with 2:54 remaining. Lincoln was able to tackle Alec Maas in the end zone for a safety one play later.

Kramer — Ottumwa’s senior quarterback — electrified the crowd in a crazy first half where it looked like both teams were intent on putting up more than 50 points up on the scoreboard. Kramer went on to score four times on the night and accounted for all of Ottumwa’s touchdowns. The Bulldog multi-sport standout scored from 28, 10 and five yards out. His 85-yard kickoff return — the first of the season for Ottumwa — made it 16-13 in favor of the Bulldogs at the 2:07 mark of the first quarter. Kramer’s 10-yard run put Lincoln down 23-13 midway through the second quarter.

Maas, Ottumwa’s junior fullback, pounded on the Lincoln defense all night long with 133 yards on 19 carries.

Lincoln’s big back — senior Rashid March — banged out 232 yards on 23 carries.

Lincoln held Ottumwa to 123 yards in the second half.

“I think early on our heads weren’t all there,” said Lincoln head coach Tom Mihalovich. “You get a couple licks from the guys in the red and white with the big ‘Os’ on their helmet — that will wake you up.”

Ottumwa senior linebacker Kurtis Miller, along with several other seniors, stayed on the field at Schafer Stadium after the outcome was decided — soaking in what will be the last time those Bulldogs will play competitively at home.

Miller encapsulated Ottumwa’s frustrations this season.

“We had really, really high expectations. We were jacked up. We were ready to go,” said Miller. “Just seems like things just go bad. We just can’t get anything going when we need to.

“Obviously, we’re just really disappointed,” added Miller. “We played hard and we did everything we could. I really don’t know what to say.”

Des Moines East (3-4, 3-0) won its third game in a row in a 60-6 win over Des Moines Hoover (1-6, 0-3) in other CIML Metro play. East and Lincoln currently reside in first place in the league. Roosevelt blanked winless Des Moines North (0-8, 0-4) 27-0.

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