By Steve Woodhouse
Pella — The Pella Christian Eagles suffered what could have been their toughest loss of the season Friday night, when the Ogden Bulldogs scored a touchdown with 26 seconds left in the game to leave Eagle Field with a 14-13 victory.
The Eagles had not been behind at any point in the game prior to then. Both defenses excelled in the first quarter to leave double zeroes on the scoreboard to begin the second.
Senior Zach Van Zee set the tone for the Eagles' defense on Ogden's first offensive drive. Van Zee nailed Bulldog quarterback Caleb Fry with a sack for a loss. By the end of the game, Van Zee racked up three tackles for loss and 13 overall. Nine of his tackles were unassisted.
Pella Christian's initial offensive drive ended when the team went for it on fourth and one inside the Bulldog 35-yard line. The Eagles were stopped short and turned the ball over on downs. The same thing happened on the Eagles' second drive on a fourth and three.
As the second quarter was drawing to a close, with 1:19 left in the half, Senior Mason Howerzyl reached the end zone from 13 yards out to put six on the board. The point after attempt failed, leaving the score at 6-0.
On the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs were able to reach the red zone after a huge passing gain. The Eagles' defense was called to stop Ogden's attempts to reach pay dirt with 21 seconds left in the half.
Ogden was able to chew the first and goal they faced down to a second and seven with 15 seconds left. Fry was able to make headway before running out of bounds at the five with nine seconds left. Another rushing attempt by Ogden was stifled by a stubborn PC defense, setting up a fourth and two with three seconds left. On the last attempt, the last play of the first half, the Eagles successfully kept the Bulldogs from crossing the line. A roar came up from the field and the Pella Christian faithful as the Eagles went in to intermission with a 6-0 lead.
Having deferred on the opening kickoff, the Eagles had possession to start the third quarter. They marched downfield to get into red zone.
The Bulldog defense was also being stubborn. Eagle quarterback Coltin Collins, a senior, kept his composure and gained some good yardage on the ground. With 6:20 left on the clock in the third, Howerzyl ran up the middle to score his second touchdown of the game. The point after attempt was successful and the Eagles led 13-0.
The Eagles were once again driving as the third quarter came to an end. On the first play of the fourth, on a fourth and five, the Bulldogs intercepted and returned the ball to the Eagle 35.
Ogden was able to reach the end zone on a pass with 8:53 left in the game, followed by a successful extra point to bring them within six, 13-7.
A noticeably weary Eagle offense, many of whom were playing both sides of the ball, was unable to respond. As time ticked down, the Bulldogs were able to again reach the red zone.
After responding to such a scenario to end the first half, the Eagle defense was once again called to hold the line. They successfully did so on three downs. What was to be Ogden's final offensive play, regardless of the outcome, Fry was able to connect with a receiver. The receiver was immediately hit by an Eagle defender. Before more help could arrive, to keep the ball out of the end zone, the receiver was able to fall with the football across the goal line to tie the game.
The determination of the defenders to try to block the extra point could be heard in their voices, but to no avail. The extra point was good.
The Eagle offense, with little time left on the clock, made great strides down the gridiron to reach field goal range, but there simply was not enough time. The Eagles fall to 3-3 on the season following the 14-13 loss.
"It's a tough loss," Coach Richard Kacmarynski said. "I thought we played well enough to win. I thought we played hard. Obviously, we missed a key extra point."
He tipped his hat to Ogden and its ability to come back from 13 points down to win. This was on a night when severe weather threatened Marion County, and the wind was strong throughout the game.
"We had a couple of mistakes, but I'm proud of my team, and we'll learn from it," Kacmarynski added.
Kacmarynski refused to let his team leave "down in the mouth" and reviewed what worked for the team. Collins finished with 81 yards in the air. Howerzyl ran for a total of 153 yards on 35 attempts. Josh Posthuma collected 49 receiving yards on two catches.
While Van Zee was the defensive leader for the night, Andrew Vander Hart finished with 10 total tackles, eight of which were unassisted. The kicking game also shined as Junior kicker Jacob Brouwer had 162 yards on three kickoffs, and punter, Junior Nate Haveman, racked up 105 yards on two punts.
Pella Christian will travel to Van Meter, a team that is undefeated, this Friday.
"I thought we played well. This is the best we played. Hopefully, we can keep going," Kacmarynski said of next week's prospects.