Iowa Central's 2012 home football opener ended in celebration here Sunday.
Despite being pushed to the limit all afternoon long, the Tritons (3-1 overall) narrowly escaped with a precarious 30-27 non-conference triumph over Air Force JV inside Dodger Stadium.
Wesley Burnside's 51-yard touchdown scamper - on his lone carry of the day - with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter ultimately proved to be the decisive score for Iowa Central, which survived a late scare by blocking a potential game-tying 42-yard Falcon field goal in the final minute.
Messenger photo by Dale Wooten
Iowa Central’s Tyson Kayser sacks the Air Force JV?quarterback on Sunday inside Dodger Stadium. The Tritons won, 30-27. For more photos, please visit CU?at www.messengernews.net
"You only get to play 11 football games a year, so there's nothing quite like getting that sweet taste of victory in your mouth," said ICCC head coach Kevin Twait, who earned his 123rd win at the helm Sunday. "I was really proud of our ability to overcome two costly fumbles (and a missed 37-yard field goal). It looked like we kind of had the game in hand early on, but then we laid (the ball) on the ground a couple of times, and gave (the Falcons) an opportunity to fight their way back."
After a safety by defensive end Tyson Kayser on Air Force JV's first play from scrimmage, the aggressive Triton defense continued to hold the Falcons at bay, forcing back-to-back three-and-outs. Iowa Central then later padded its lead on a 34-yard endzone strike from Chris Bell to Brandynn Clark, followed by a 1-yard Ronald Thompson paydirt plunge.
From there, the pesky visitors reeled off 13 unanswered points before the break, slicing the once seemingly insurmountable deficit to only a field-goal difference (16-13) at the half.
Iowa Central9 7 14 0- 30
Air Force JV0 13 14 0-27
Iowa Central - Tyson Kayser (tackle in endzone), 14:54 left first.
Iowa Central - Brandynn Clark (34-yard pass from Chris Bell), 4:39 left first. Alden Haffar kick.
Iowa Central - Ronald Thompson (1-yard run), 9:54 left second. Haffar kick.
Air Force JV - Aaron Clinton-Earl (6-yard run), 7:59 left second. Kick failed.
Air Force JV - Garret Brown (2-yard run), :38 left second. Eric Kaminski kick.
Iowa Central - Jontel Clayton (66-yard run), 13:32 left third. Haffar kick.
Air Force JV - Clinton-Earl (1-yard run), 8:04 left third. Andrew Oehrle kick.
Air Force JV - Ian Imamura (59-yard fumble return), 5:11 left third. Oehrle kick.
Iowa Central - Wesley Burnside (51-yard run), 3:25 left third. Haffar kick.
Rushing - Iowa Central: Jontel Clayton 25-121, Wesley Burnside 1-51, Ronald Thompson 9-50, Jimmy Purvin 9-35, Tom McClimon 2-7, Brandynn Clark 1-3, Chris Bell 2-(minus-2), Team 2-(minus-2). Air Force JV: Paco Solano 6-59, Danno Graves 14-44, Garret Brown 7-26, Aaron Clinton-Earl 9-22, Jon Burton 3-9, Karson Roberts 1-6, Adam Blankenship 1-1, Vegas Johnson 2-0.
Passing - Iowa Central: Bell 8-9-0-116. Air Force JV: Graves 10-16-0-118, Roberts 0-1-0-0.
Receiving - Iowa Central: Clark 4-86, Jaquon Goodman 2-18, Juwan Simmons 1-6, Kaden Cue 1-6. Air Force JV: Lucas Duncavage 3-47, Thaddeus Baxley 2-29, Brown 3-26, Myles Barnes 1-11, Nelson Onwuzu 1-5.
"We knew (the outcome) could still go either way at that point," Twait said. "Fortunately, we were able to make just enough plays when we needed to."
Both squads traded punches throughout the third period, which featured the game's final 28 points. Air Force JV actually jumped in front briefly, when Ian Imamura scooped up a Triton fumble - their second in as many drives - and rumbled 59 yards for a touchdown.
On Iowa Central's ensuing possession, however, Burnside broke free up the middle for his eventual winning run.
The Tritons appeared to have a perfect chance to seal the deal with just over two minutes left, but failed to convert a key 4th-and-2 from the Falcons' 46. Air Force JV was unable to capitalize, though, on the outstanding field position, committing a pair of crucial penalties in the closing stages.
"We felt we could pick (the first down) up in that (4th-and-2) situation, so we decided to go for it," said Twait. "Even though we came up a little short, our defense stepped up and got a huge stop."
Making his return to the lineup from a lower leg injury, Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Jontel Clayton powered the smashmouth Iowa Central ground charge again with 121 yards and a score on 25 attempts. Clayton, who ranks second in program history with 1,801 career rushing yards, delivered a 66-yard touchdown dash early in the third.
Bell went an efficient 8-for-9 through the air for 116 yards. Clark was his favorite target, hauling in four catches for 86 yards.
"(The Air Force JV) defense wasn't real big up front, but they were pretty quick and constantly twisting and turning (at the line of scrimmage)," Twait said.
Quarterback Danno Graves of the Falcons completed 10 of 16 passes for 118 yards, while Aaron Clinton-Earl added a pair of scoring jaunts.
Defensively, the Tritons received 2.5 sacks from Kayser, and a half of a sack by linebacker Zach Twedt.
"What a great crowd we had (yesterday)," said Twait. "It's always fun to have all that (fan) support behind you."
Next action for Iowa Central is Sunday when it welcomes Grand View JV for a 1 p.m. kickoff.