Ballard wins 27-24 homecoming thriller

HUXLEY – A phenomenal effort on both sides of the ball enabled the Ballard football team to earn one of the biggest wins in school history Friday on homecoming night.

The Bombers knocked off a previously-unbeaten Norwalk team that was ranked third in Class 3A, 27-24, at Rich Strouse Field in Huxley.

Ballard (3-1) entered the game with back-to-back wins over Carlisle (33-26) and Saydel (40-0), after suffering a season-opening loss to Webster City. Last season the Bombers also started off 2-1, but then dropped six straight.

Friday’s performance was a strong sign Ballard was back to its usual playoff-contender self as the Bombers withstood Norwalk’s big play attack behind their own balanced attack to score the big upset.

"It was a great homecoming week at Ballard and we had great support from the students and fans," Ballard head coach Al Christian said. "This was a great team win. The offense controlled the ball and had a couple big plays. The defense gave up a couple big plays, but also created some big turnovers."

Norwalk (3-1) looked like it was going to cruise to victory at the start of the game. The Warriors went up 7-0 just 16 seconds into the game as Brady Brandsfield connected with Caleb Klocko on a 64-yard touchdown pass and Daniel Obley added the extra point.

But Ballard remained calm, and by the end of the quarter, the Bombers were leading 8-7.

Jacob Nethers had a 2-yard touchdown run to pull Ballard within 7-6, but the extra point was missed. The Bombers made up for that at the end of the quarter when Andrew Rasmussen brought down a Norwalk player in the end zone for a safety.

With 1:23 left in the second quarter, Ballard increased its lead to 14-7 as Coy Baker found Tyson Pritchard on a 13-yard touchdown pass.

Norwalk closed within 14-10 at the half as Karson Olerich drilled a 37-yard field goal at the end of the first half. The Warriors then regained the lead early in the third quarter, thanks to another big pass play.

This time Brandsfield hit Luke Greenslade on a 38-yard touchdown pass and Obley followed with the extra point to give the Warriors a 17-14 advantage.

The go-ahead score for the Warriors didn’t faze Ballard one bit.

With 6:42 remaining in the third quarter, Ballard regained the lead on its biggest play from scrimmage. Mason Jensen hauled in a 56-yard touchdown toss from Baker and Brandon Kane added the extra point to give the Bombers a 21-17 advantage.

And Ballard wasn’t done yet.

The Bombers forced a turnover on Norwalk’s ensuing position, and with 5:20 to go in the third, Baker threw his third touchdown pass – a 9-yard toss to tight end Cole Wilson. The extra point was no good, but Ballard still held a two-score lead at 27-17.

Norwalk closed back within three points to cap a busy third quarter for both teams. With 2:17 to go in the period, Nathan Johnston caught a 41-yard scoring pass from Brandsfield and Obley tacked on the extra point.

That proved to be the final score of the game.

After Baker’s arm gave Ballard the lead through three quarters, it was the legs of Jacob Nethers and the powerful Bomber ground game that took over in the fourth. The Bombers ate up large chunks of time in the final period to help keep the Warriors off the board over the final 12 minutes to preserve the huge Bomber victory.

Norwalk ended up with more total yards, 385 to Ballard’s 361. But the Bombers forced three turnovers and only committed one, and that turned out to be the difference.

Baker had a breakout game to lead Ballard to victory.

After completing just 10 of 36 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in his first three games as the Bombers’ starting quarterback, Baker went 7 of 13 for 157 yards against Norwalk. He threw three touchdown passes against the Warriors and had no interceptions.

"I’m happy for Coy," Christian said.

Pritchard caught two passes for 67 yards, Jensen made the one 56-yard scoring grab, Wilson had three receptions for 28 yards and Tanner Petersen hauled in a 6-yard reception for Ballard.

Nethers and Isaiah Johnson provided the perfect complements to Baker’s breakout passing performance. Nethers grinded out 148 yards and one touchdown on 39 carries and Johnson picked up 46 yards on 13 carries.

As a team Ballard ended up with 204 yards rushing on 58 carries.

On defense linebackers Ben Claussen and Marcus Johnson were all over the field for the Bombers as they racked up 15 tackles apiece. Tyler Kyhl and Spencer Struve each finished with eight tackles and one stop behind the line, Brandon Brown made six tackles and Kenny Randolph added five, including one tackle for loss

Struve and Quinton Erickson each recovered one fumble and Jensen picked off a pass off a tipped ball from his younger brother Kolby.

Brandsfield was 11 of 19 passing for 223 yards with three scores and one interception for Norwalk in a losing effort. He also ran for 21 yards on five carries.

Greenslade caught four passes for 68 yards, Johnston made two grabs for 52 yards, Neil Hanson snared four receptions for 39 yards and Klocko made the one 64-yard scoring catch for Norwalk. Jesse Cowie was the leading Warrior rusher with 89 yards on 13 carries.

Ballard resumes Class 3A District 4 competition this week. The competition doesn’t get any easier for the Bombers as they host undefeated Boone (4-0, 2-0).

"The real season starts this week against a very good Boone team," Christian said. "We need to get better to win this week."

The Bombers’ game against the Toreadors will start at 7:30 p.m. at Rich Strouse Field.

Ballard 27, Norwalk 24

N 7 3 14 0 – 24

B 8 6 13 0 – 27

Scoring

First quarter

N – Caleb Klocko 64 pass from Brady Brandsfield (Daniel Obley kick), 11:44

B – Jacob Nethers 2 run (kick failed), 4:52

B – Safety (Andrew Rasmussen), 0:00

Second quarter

B – Tyson Pritchard 13 pass from Coy Baker (kick failed), 1:23

N – Karson Olerich 37 FG, 0:00

Third quarter

N – Luke Greenslade 38 pass from Brandsfield (Obley kick), 9:58

B – Mason Jensen 56 pass from Baker (Brandon Kane kick), 6:42

B – Cole Wilson 9 pass from Baker (kick blocked), 5:20

N – Nathan Johnston 41 pass from Brandsfield (Obley kick), 2:17

Team statistics N B

Rushes-yards 28-162 58-204

Passing 11-19-1 7-13-0

Passing yards 223 157

Total yards 385 361

Fumbles lost 2 1

Punts-average 3-30.0 3-36.0

Individual statistics

Rushing: N – Jesse Cowie 13-89, Nathan Johnston 6-28, Cory Harding 4-24, Brady Brandsfield 5-21. B – Jacob Nethers 39-148, Isaiah Johnson 13-46, Zach Thompson 5-7, Coy Baker 1-3.

Passing: N – Brandsfield 11-19-1-223. B – Baker 7-13-0-157.

Receiving: N – Luke Greenslade 4-68, Caleb Klocko 1-64, Johnston 2-52, Neil Hanson 4-39. B – Tyson Pritchard 2-67, Mason Jensen 1-56, Cole Wilson 3-28, Tanner Petersen 1-6.

Tackles: B – Ben Claussen 15, Marcus Johnson 15, Tyler Kyhl 8, Spencer Struve 8, Brandon Brown 6, Kenny Randolph 5.

Fumble recoveries: B – Quinton Erickson, Struve.

Interceptions: B – Jensen.