CEDAR RAPIDS — If you wanted defensive, smash-mouth football, cold Kingston Stadium was the place to be Friday night. And if you wanted an exciting, last-second, come-from-behind victory, well, Kingston Stadium was warm to the task.
Dubuque Hempstead quarterback Matt Ehlers’ 5-yard run with 32.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter led the Mustangs (6-2) to a 17-13 victory over Cedar Rapids Kennedy (3-5).
“It’s like a dream. I’m going to have to look at the film to see what really happened there at the end,” said Hempstead Coach Mark Ehlers. “Matt made a great cut. It was a big play.”
The dreamlike drive started on the Kennedy 46 with 4:02 to play after an 18-yard punt by Nicholas Bruns.
The Cougars, who remain alive for a playoff berth, had taken a 13-10 lead on the strength of their kicking game as Erik Boyer booted field goals of 47 and 29 yards, the latter with 5:42 to go. When Caleb Mare recorded his second interception of the game on Hempstead’s next series to give Kennedy the ball at its 46, it appeared the home team would be able to pull out the win.
Alas, that was not meant to be as the Cougars were forced to punt, setting up the clinching 10-play, 46-yard drive.
Ehlers was proud of his players and complimentary to his opponents.
“It was a defensive struggle,” he said. “These were two teams that were very well prepared. We persevered. They had us against the ropes in the fourth quarter. (Kennedy) is a heck of a football team. They only have lost to good teams.”
Ehlers completed 12 of 15 passes but tossed two picks and had only 79 yards through the air. The Mustangs had 128 yards on the ground but needed 43 rushes to get that.
Kennedy quarterback Jed Haycraft, whose last-ditch pass fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired, was 10 of 16 for 114 yards. The Cougars’ running game was held to 41 yards.