Red zone woes doom Warriors
AURELIA - The Alta-Aurelia football team had their fair share of chances on Friday night when they welcomed Lawton-Bronson to Valor Field. Both teams have visions of their first win, but three trips inside the Eagle 10 yard line yielded no points for the Warriors in a 14-7 setback.
Lawton-Bronson provided an explosive start to the contest, Hayden Dahlhauser taking the opening kickoff 84 yards to the end zone to get his team an early 6-0 lead.
“I kinda saw that coming. I told them all week it’d happen if we didn’t fill the lanes correctly,” A-A Coach Chris Reinert said. “It’s a bad way to start a game.”
The Warriors drove down the field in their opening possession, highlighted by a long run by Preston McCoy, but stalled out inside the Lawton-Bronson 5 yard line as Cade Rohwer was stopped short on a fourth and goal. A-A’s defense created a big play with an interception and soon cashed in on a 24 yard scamper by Rohwer 10 seconds into the second quarter, the point after good, 7-6 the score.
“It was a wasted effort by the defense,” Reinert said. “We got inside the 10 yard line three times and came up empty. With our defense playing well and our offense giving us no points, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
The Warriors opened the second half and again drove down the field. However, they came up short after a failed fourth down at the L-B five yard line. The Eagles took advantage of this and mounted the game winning drive, but were aided by a pair of big fourth down miscues by the Warriors.
Having stopped L-B at their own five, the A-A special teams were flagged for lining up over the center on a punt, giving the Eagles a free first down. After shutting down the Eagles a second time, another fourth down flag harmed the Warrior defensive effort. Connor Smith hit Matt Peters from 18 yards out with five seconds left in the quarter, two point conversion good, to put the Warriors down by a touchdown.
A-A’s offense stalled on their next drive, but Lane Kraemer intercepted a Smith pass to give his team life at the L-B 35. However, the Warriors’ offensive woes continued. Every single time the A-A defense rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter, getting a stop and the ball back at the Eagle 30 yard line with 2:17 to go.
A Rohwer interception halted the Warrior drive, but another three and out stand by the defense gave Alta-Aurelia one last shot at tying the game with 54 seconds to go. Another turnover and no timeouts left put the final nail in the coffin for the Warriors.
“We talked to the kids after the game about cleaning up the details,” Reinert said. “We’re not good enough to win sloppy games. We want to be playing our best ball five weeks from now.”
The Warriors had 167 yards of offense and allowed exactly 200 yards to the Eagles. A-A’s run defense made it difficult for the Eagles, holding them to 59 yards. The Warrior defense also picked off Smith three times, two of them going to Kraemer and one to Teagan Meyer.
Rohwer completed five passes for 20 yards and ran for another 53. McCoy had 91 yards on the ground in 15 attempts. Alex DeRoos had 5.5 tackles for a loss as Levi Sleezer added a sack.
“It was a gutsy defensive performance. We had a kid playing with a torn ACL and he gutted it out,” Reinert said. “It was good to see our cornerbacks progress. The offense just couldn’t stop the blitz. The pass blocking was good but could have been better in the run game.”
Alta-Aurelia falls to 0-2. They open up district play Friday night at Manson-NW Webster. The Cougars are also looking for their first win, and suffered a 49-13 setback to Pocahontas Area this past week.