On a damp, cloudy Friday night at Iowa Park, the home team fought tooth and claw against Decatur.
The hard-hitting, too-close-for-comfort game was in question until an interception by Decatur’s Johnny Murillo with 30 seconds left to play allowed the Eagles to walk away with a 28-21 win at Hawk Stadium.
Key turnovers forced by Decatur, along with a powerful running attack led by junior Levi Rust, ultimately gave the Eagles the road win.
“I’d watched them in game film and I knew they battled everyone they played,” said Decatur Head Coach Kyle Story. “It was a hard, physical team.”
Story admitted that some botched plays by his team kept the Eagles from putting their hosts away.
“We made every mistake in the world and we were still able to come out with a win,” he said. “It’s good to get a win in a close game.”
Two long running touchdowns by junior quarterback Grayson Muehlstein were called back due to holding, and a misfired pooch kick late in the third quarter resulted in a 50-yard kickoff return by Iowa Park’s Trace Cross to tie the game at 14.
Cross pulled the short, floating kick out of the air after it traveled about 10 yards and dashed untouched to the endzone.
“That kick was supposed to go about 15 yards further,” Story said.
Iowa Park received the opening kickoff and showed they had come to play. Freshman quarterback Derrick Ponder orchestrated an opening drive with accurate passing that belied his youth and inexperience. He capped the drive with a six-yard toss to Cross in the corner of the endzone.
Decatur responded to the Hawks’ aerial attack with bulldozing ground game. Rust capped the drive with a tough nine-yard run up the gut.
The teams entered the locker room at halftime tied 7-7.
But Rust responded in the third with a 31-yard rumble up the middle. He finished the night with 167 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
“Levi and Max (Junkert) both did a great jobs of gaining four to five yards or after contact,” Story said.
Rust’s second touchdown was set up by a interception by senior defensive back Mason Clinesmith – the first of two he had during the night’s brawl. His second pick came with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter, with Decatur leading 28-21 and the Hawks driving in Decatur territory.
“Coach (Nick) Stokes told us on the sideline that it was late in the game and we had to make a stop,” Clinesmith said. “I had read the eyes of the quarterback on the pass before and I knew where he was going to go. I got in position and made the interception.”
Decatur had taken the lead minutes earlier when Muehlstein passed to a wide-open Tyler Story. It was a third-and-two and the Hawk defense suspected a run was coming. Story hauled in the pass and strolled untouched into the endzone to give the Eagles the lead for good.
Jared Durdon scored on a 10-yard scamper with seconds left in the third. Iowa Park tied the game early in the fourth with a 10-yard run by Jace Langen – but Story’s catch put Decatur back on top for good.
“It was a very fierce game overall,” Clinesmith said. “But we were able to come out with a win, and I’m very happy about that. It was a great effort by the entire team.”
Decatur moves to 3-2 for the season. Iowa Park falls to 1-4. Next week Decatur takes on Alvarado at home. The Indians were ranked No. 7 in the state in 3A, but lost a squeaker last night 14-13 to Connally.
DECATUR 28, IOWA PARK 21
Decatur … 7 … 0 … 14 … … 7-28
Iowa Park … 7 … 0 … 7 … … 7-21
Iowa Park – 8:00; Derrick Ponder 6-yard pass Trace Cross; Bailey Hale kick good
Decatur – 4:38; Levi Rust 9-yard run; Clark Allen kick good
Decatur – 2:57; Rust 31-yard run; Allen kick good
Iowa Park – 2:55; Cross 50 yard kickoff return; Hale kick good
Decatur – 0:05 Jared Durdon 10-yard run; Allen kick good
Iowa Park – 11:03; Jace Langen 10-yard run; Hale kick good
Decatur Grayson – 7:0;8 Muehlstein 27-yard pass to Tyler Story; Allen kick good
IOWA PARK … DECATUR
First Downs … 16 … 19
Rushes Yards … 72 … 319
Passing Yards … 261 … 126
Total Yards … 333 … 445
Comp-Att-Int … 16-29-3 … 10-16-1
Punts … 3-39 … 2-33
Fumbles lost … 1-1 … 0-0
Penalties … 9-70 … 9-60
Levi Rust 19-167 2 TDs; Jace Langen 6-38 1 TD
Grayson Muehlstein 10-16-126 yds 1 TD 1 int.; Derrick Ponder 16-29-261 1 TD 3 int.
Tyler Story 2-55 1 TD; Jared Price 8-113, Trace Cross 6-103 1 TD