Demons win, Demons winWashington to take the field for first school state title
CEDAR FALLS — Two plays. That is what 13 games — 624 minutes — 37,440 seconds of football this season came down to Thursday night in the state semifinals.
Washington started the drive from their own 21 with 7:44 to play and trailing 9-7 against Solon.
After six plays the Demons looked set to give the ball away with a punt on fourth-and-18. That is when senior punter Mason Quigley called his own number and ran the ball up the right side to convert a fake punt.
“We really didn’t (know we would go for it), Quigley just made a great play,” Washington head coach Randy Schrader said. “He had a great call there. That was it. If we don’t make that, we aren’t hugging each other and feeling good about ourselves.”
Quigley fumbled on the run but it was recovered by senior Tanner Knupp. There was some controversy surrounding whether or not Quigley had enough yards, but it was ruled a first down.
With a second wind, Knupp ran the same Gator route out of the backfield that resulted in a touchdown against Pella— different night, same result. Knupp sprinted down the right sideline for a 50-yard score on third-and-10.
“I just showed up to play — that is all I do,” Knupp said. “Just came to play. Coaches are calling the plays that are working. I guarantee you we are not done running that route. I’m a little enough guy that I sneak out through the line and sneak to the flats.”
Knupp finished with 75 yards receiving on two catches and had 138 rushing yards on 12 attempts. The team gained 253 yards on the ground.
The Demons completed the comeback with 4:51 to play for a 14-9 win to advance to its first championship game in program history.
“It started four years ago,” Schrader said. “The guys bought in to what we were doing. We get a chance to play in the state championship. How often does that happen?”
Earlier in that drive, tight end Thomas Bump pulled in a skillful one-handed clutch catch to move the chains.
The Demons swarmed the Spartans on the next drive as senior linebacker Garrett Covington punched the ball out for a fumble. Junior Gage Redlinger recovered it deep in Solon territory.
The Demons turned the ball over on downs at the Solon 16 with 28 seconds left. A Hail Mary pass from Solon inside Washington’s 5 fell incomplete to end the game.
The Washington team was far from firing on all cylinders throughout the game despite making the plays to win on its second-to-last drive.
The Demons had three three-and-outs. The team went backward on its opening two plays of the game.
“We didn’t play real well in that first half,” Schrader said. “To be honest with you, we didn’t play well the whole night. (But) I’m so proud of these kids.”
Junior quarterback Daryn Sebelius was picked off twice by Solon senior Nathan Hawkins. Sebelius finished the night with 101 passing yards, with half of his yards coming on Knupp’s game-winning reception.
Sebelius had one of his miscues the drive prior to the score at Solon’s 41. None of this could shake his confidence as he faced defeat.
From the first whistle it looked as if Solon would overwhelm the Washington defense. Keyed by a punt fake from Solon junior Brandon Kramer to the Washington 47, Solon drove 48 yards on its opening drive to the 10.
From there Washington refused to break. Solon quarterback Jacob Black took a sack at the 13. Then on third down from the 7, Black was chased out of bounds. With 3:43 remaining in the first quarter, the Spartans would settle for a field goal — a recurring theme.
Two drives later, the Demons would start from their 41. As the quick-scoring unit the Demons have been all year, they found the end zone after Knupp brushed off multiple tackles to emerge for a 52-yard carry. The drive spanned three plays and 23 seconds.
“I don’t know what happened,” Knupp said. “I met the first guy — just kept turning, met the next guy — just kept turning. I got pushed in the back, put my arm down and bear-crawled a little bit. I have never seen a prettier sight, running with no one in sight.”
Solon answered by moving the ball 71 yards, before kicking a 28-yard field goal.
Sebelius backed into Quigley midway through the third quarter to give Solon the ball at Washington’s 7.
The Demons’ defense had one more goal-line stand in them.
A penalty pushed the ball back 5 yards, before junior Tama Leutele made a 4-yard tackle for a loss on third down. Solon regained the lead with a 26-yard field goal at 9-7.
“It came back to Pella,” Covington said. “That mindset. We knew that we could do it, if everyone filled their gap and played like the force team we are. I tell my guys, ‘this is everything we have worked for, put it all on the line.”
The Demon defense gave up just 60 passing yards and 144 yards on the ground. Knupp led the unit with 14 tackles and one sack. Covington had 13 tackles.
“Coach (Dave) Hoffman had a great scheme,” Schrader said. “We played well enough to win.”
Schrader will partake in his first title game in 30 years of coaching, along with his coaching staff: Hoffman, Don Miksch, Kurt Levetzow, Scott Danielson, Josh Riffel, James Harris, Jay Zieglowsky and Lane Ranck. They will take Washington to its first-ever title game appearance.
“We just got to win it now,” Schrader said. “(There are) 48 minutes until a championship. This is what you coach for. This is a credit to our program and all of our assistant coaches. They did it all. I’m lucky to be the head guy.”