NEVADA - A new attitude has already paid off for the North Polk football team.
Coming off a 2-7 season, the Comets entered 2018 determined to get a winning mindset back into the program. On Friday it was mission accomplished in their season opener at Nevada.
North Polk scored 19 unanswered points in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter to pull off a thrilling 49-35 victory over the Cubs..
North Polk saw a 30-14 lead evaporate in the second half as Nevada scored three consecutive touchdowns to take a 35-30 lead midway through the fourth quarter. But a huge kickoff return from Quinten Sommers completely changed the trajectory of the game.
After Jakob Strottman hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Kody Kruschwitz to put Nevada on top with 6:28 left in the fourth, Sommers took the ensuing kickoff and ran it back 64 yards to the Cub 28.
“I was going to go up the middle, but I saw a hole to the left,” Sommers said of the clutch return. “It was a really tight hole I had to squeeze through. Once I squeezed through that, I was running up the sideline and this (Nevada player) tried to take out my legs. I coulda sworn I was going down. When I stayed on my feet I just kept running — I did not think I was going to get that far.”
Seven plays later, North Polk faced a 4th-and-goal from the Nevada 4-yard line. After having run the ball on their previous three plays, the Comets mixed it up and went to a rollout pass to senior back Jeff Lamp.
Comet quarterback Colten Parkins flipped the ball to Lamp for an easy conversion to give North Polk a 36-35 lead.
“No one saw it coming,” Parkins said. “It was just a dump out right to him — wide open.”
On Nevada’s ensuing possession, North Polk forced a 3rd-and-10. Mark Cox then came up with a big-time sack to force Nevada to go for it on 4th-and-19 from its own 11.
Cub quarterback Kody Kruschwitz overthrew Andrew Saunders on a deep route to give the ball back to North Polk, already deep in the red zone. Parkins found Ryan Fausch from eight yards out on fourth down to push North Polk’s lead to 43-35 with just 37 seconds left.
Nevada attempted a last-gasp comeback, but the Comets’ Trevor Mathis picked off Kruschwitz and ran it back 25 yards for six to ice the game.
“They took the momentum from us in the third quarter and we just took it right back,” Parkins said. “That’s how we play football now. Things have changed this year.”
North Polk overcame 12 penalties and three turnovers to get its season started off on the right foot. A revamped ground game was the difference-maker as the Comets pounded out 293 yards rushing and held Nevada to 98.
Logan Engebretson led North Polk’s resurgent ground game. Getting his first extensive varsity time at running back, Engebretson ran for 121 yards and one touchdown on just 12 carries.
“I’m just here to help out the team and do whatever I can,” Engebretson said. “Jeff’s going to get a lot of carries and I’m going to help him out.”
Lamp ran for 61 yards and Thomas Jones ran for 25 yards and one touchdown. Parkins added 86 yards and one score on the ground and he also completed 9 of 18 passes for 91 yards and three touchdowns.
Sommers made three receptions for 52 yards, including a sensational 31-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter where he went up high over Nevada defensive back Anthony Ellis and snared the ball in the end zone.
“It was a seven-step post rout, but I actually shortened it down to a five-step,” Sommers said. “Parkins did the best he could to get it to me and as soon as I saw it in the air (I went) right over (Ellis), I high-pointed the ball and I’m just glad I came down with the catch.”
Fausch made two grabs for 16 yards and tight end Caleb Lomica had one 16-yard reception.
On defense, Lomica had eight tackles and Cox tallied 7.5 with a sack. Parkins made 4.5 stops; Engebretson, Lamp and Jones recorded three apiece and Fausch recovered a fumble.
Kruschwitz threw for 224 yards and five touchdowns with one interception in his first start at quarterback for Nevada. Strottman ran for 104 yards and had three catches for 28 yards and two scores, Andrew Saunders caught six passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns and Brayden Bottorf had finished with receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown for the Cubs.
Sam Abraham came up with 9.5 tackles and an interception and Strottman also picked up 9.5 stops for Nevada defensively. Ross Uthe and Lucas Rogers each recovered a fumble for the Cubs.
Next up for North Polk is its home opener against former district rival Grinnell (1-0). The Comets will attempt to avenge an overtime loss to the Tigers last year.
North Polk’s game against Grinnell is set to start at 7:30 p.m. at Comet Stadium in Alleman.
North Polk 49, Nevada 35
NP 8 7 15 20 - 49
N 14 0 14 7 - 35
N - Jakob Strottman 13 pass from Kody Kruschwitz (kick blocked), 10:26.
NP - Colten Parkins 2 run (Parkins run), 6:02.
N - Andrew Saunders 69 pass from Kruschwitz (run failed), 2:10.
N - Safety, 1:18.
NP - Logan Engebretson 1 run (Colin Swygman kick), 1:38.
NP - Thomas Jones 5 run (Ryan Fausch pass from Parkins), 7:32.
NP - Quinten Sommers 31 pass from Parkins (Swygman kick), 5:47.
N - Saunders 18 pass from Kruschwitz (Blake Bottorf pass from Sam Abraham), 2:27.
N - Brayden Bottorf 24 pass from Kruschwitz (pass failed), 0:37.
N - Strottman 12 pass from Kruschwitz (Jack Cahill kick), 6:28.
NP - Jeff Lamp 4 pass from Parkins (pass failed), 3:49.
NP - Fausch 8 pass from Parkins (Swygman kick), 0:37.
NP - Trevor Mathis 25 interception return (kick failed), 0:26.
Team statistics NP N
First downs 20 16
Rushes-yards 48-293 33-98
Passing 9-18-1 14-30-1
Passing yards 91 227
Total yards 384 325
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-1
Punts-average 1-2.0 5-43.4
Penalties-yards 12-78 7-64
Rushing: NP - Logan Engebretson 12-121, Colten Parkins 16-86, Jeff Lamp 11-61, Thomas Jones 9-25. N - Jakob Strottman 25-104, Kody Kruschwitz 6-1, Sam Abraham 1-0.
Passing: NP - Parkins 9-18-1-91. N - Kruschwitz 14-29-1-224, Abraham 1-1-0-3.
Receiving: NP - Quinten Sommers 3-52, Ryan Fausch 2-16, Caleb Lomica 1-16, Engebretson 1-9, Lamp 1-4. N - Andrew Saunders 6-114, Brayden Bottorf 2-38, Strottman 3-28, Abraham 1-26, Blake Bottorf 1-11, Keaton Fry 1-7.
Tackles: NP - Lomica 8, Mark Cox 7.5, Parkins 4.5, Engebretson 3, Lamp 3, Jones 3. N - Abraham 11, Strottman 11, Fry 4, Jay Calentine 4, Ethan Wild 4.
Sacks: NP - Cox.
Fumble recoveries: NP - Fausch. N - Ross Uthe, Lucas Rogers.
Interceptions: NP - Trevor Mathis. N - Abraham.