Home sweet homeWashington wins first playoff game at Case Field in 15 years
Leading Norwalk 21-14 late in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s Class 3A first-round playoff game at Case Field, Washington was trying to run as much time as possible off the clock. Junior Tanner Knupp had already run for a pair of first downs, but the Demons faced third-and-11 from the Norwalk 31-yard line with 1:38 remaining.
That’s when the Demons made a gutsy play call.
They went to the air, and sophomore quarterback Daryn Sebelius found senior receiver Justin Hoffman for a 29-yard gain that put the ball on the 2-yard line. Three plays later, Sebelius ran for a 2-yard touchdown that put the exclamation point on Washington’s 28-14 win over No. 10 Norwalk.
“We kept running the same power play, and then we set that up and they bit on that,” said Hoffman, who had three catches for 54 yards in the game, but none bigger than the one he made late in the game. “We got good protection, and Daryn just put it on the money. It just ended the game pretty much.”
An interception by Knupp and a kneel down by Sebelius put the finishing touches on Washington’s first postseason victory since 2006 and first home playoff win since 1997.
“That was awesome,” senior linebacker Mitchell Hora said. “The feeling is indescribable.”
Washington (7-3) advances to Monday’s second-round game at Winterset (7-3).
“One of our goals was to win a playoff game,” Washington head coach Randy Schrader said. “Now we’re working for the ultimate goal.”
The Demons and Warriors played a scoreless stalemate through most of the first half of Wednesday’s game, but Washington junior Alex Coker broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run with 1:22 left in the second quarter that put the Demons up 7-0 at the half.
Then, on the first play of the second half, junior Carl Sivels found a seam and sprinted 65 yards for a touchdown that put Washington ahead 14-0 and sent the Demon student section into pandemonium.
“It was just a straight power play,” Schrader said. “I had just drawn it up on the board before we came out and asked, ‘Why can’t we run this play?’ We just put it up on the board. We came out and I go, ‘You know what, why don’t we just run it?’ And we blocked it perfectly and Carl scored.”
Sivels scored a 5-yard touchdown run with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter to extend Washington’s lead to 21-0. The fans on the Norwalk sideline sat in stunned silence.
But Norwalk senior Kolby Greenslade returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, and all of a sudden the Warriors had life again.
“We were pretty flat as a team and then got a little spark with special teams,” Norwalk head coach Paul Patterson said.
Norwalk’s defense forced a punt, and then the Warriors drove 82 yards for a touchdown, capped by senior quarterback Chase Onken’s 1-yard sneak into the end zone. Suddenly, Norwalk had trimmed Washington’s lead to 21-14.
The Warriors forced another Washington punt, and took over at their own 19-yard line with just over five minutes remaining. But the Demon defense held strong — although Onken overthrew a receiver on what would have been a sure touchdown — and forced Norwalk to go three-and-out.
“We had a couple of key stops,” Hora said. “We’ve been working really hard on getting off the field.”
Washington’s defense limited the Warriors (7-3) to just 143 yards on the night.
“Norwalk hadn’t played anyone as physical as us. You could tell,” said Hora, who recorded eight tackles and recovered a fumble in the contest. “They got smacked around a couple of times. They’re not used to physical Washington football.”
The Demons used their physicality to make up for their lack of size against Norwalk.
“It was a physical mismatch, but we matched their size with our intensity,” Schrader said. “Physically, we might be outmatched and we might give up 100 pounds, but we are going to go and get after people.”
After Washington got the ball back, they pounded the ball straight ahead, with Knupp running the ball out of the Wildcat formation. He picked up a pair of key first downs before the Demons took to the air to seal the win.
“Coach looked at me in the eye and said, ‘Do you want it or not?’ Knupp said. “I didn’t want to sound like I wanted the ball like a ball hog, but I felt like I was going to make a play. I wanted the ball to make a play for the team. We played power football with them, and we definitely won that game.”
Washington dominated the game statistically, totaling 468 yards and 22 first downs, but turned the ball over twice on fumbles and another time on downs inside the Norwalk 25-yard line.
“We’ve still got to play four quarters,” Hoffman said. “We only played like two quarters and gave the ball over a couple of times in the red zone. We’ve got to keep getting better.”
Coker rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, and Sivels added 103 yards and two scores on 10 attempts. Knupp finished with 69 yards on 14 carries. Sebelius ran for 24 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and was 9-for-13 passing for 133 yards. But no pass was bigger than his third-down toss to Hoffman.
“What a great call there on third down,” Patterson said. “We were expecting a run, and they did a little play action and got down to the goal line and scored to ice the game.”