Pleasant Valley had all the momentum. Carter Bell snatched it away with his feet.
After marching 81 yards to take a three-point lead over Bettendorf midway through the third quarter Friday night, the Spartans forced the Bulldogs into a fourth down deep in their own territory.
PV was poised to get the football back in relatively good field position.
But faced with fourth and 9, the Bettendorf quarterback executed a fake punt from Bettendorf’s 21-yard line and picked up a first down.
Class 4A sixth-ranked Bettendorf capitalized on that spark for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to upend rival PV 27-17 at TouVelle Stadium.
“It was one of those, ‘No, no, no, yeah that was good,’” Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley said. “That’s an extra dimension he gives us.
"I'm sure glad he's on our team."
Bell, in fact, pulled off two fake punts for first downs in the game.
One led to a score and another changed field position to set up Bettendorf’s go-ahead touchdown.
“It is a play that we actually have,” Bell said. “It is a punt, but if I see something, I can run for it. It is a big decision for me, and I knew I was the best athlete out there. I knew what I could get.
“I’m not going to put our team in a situation where I would lose that. I think I made the best decision there. We needed a first down."
PV coach Rusty VanWetzinga admitted with Bell’s athleticism in the open field, it is an extremely difficult play to defend. In hindsight, VanWetzinga said the Spartans probably should have brought more pressure at Bell.
“He puts you in a bind because he holds it, holds it and gets a little space,” VanWetzinga said. “They hadn’t shown a lot of that on film.”
Bell passed for 132 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 113 and a score. It was the second straight week he's been over 100 in both categories and he's yet to throw an interception in four games.
Bettendorf (3-1) seized the lead early in the fourth quarter when Bell found Tyler Ciha for a 17-yard score.
The Spartans (3-1) tried a fake punt themselves on the ensuing drive, but Camden Glenn’s pass on fourth and 6 was dropped at midfield.
Bettendorf pounced. Bell found speedster Darien Porter for 29 yards on third and 19 to set up Mason Morris’ 1-yard plunge to virtually seal the game with 5:31 remaining.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Wiley said. “They do a good job, are well-coached and play hard. I credit our kids because we got behind in the second half, found a way to gut it out and get a win against a good team.”
Bettendorf played without running back Nijel McIntosh, who came in averaging more than 10 yards per carry. Morris picked up the slack with 94 yards on 20 carries.
Morris carried the ball five times on Bettendorf’s 11-play scoring drive that led to the winning score.
“We just brought ourselves together and took a breath,” Morris said. “We just had to make big plays and first downs. We knew that would lead to touchdowns.”
PV, which had cruised to wins over Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Iowa City High and Muscatine in the first three weeks by a 139-26 margin, rallied from a 14-0 deficit with 17 straight points in the second and third quarters.
Quarterback Max Slavens passed for 134 yards and had two rushing touchdowns. PV had three pass plays go for 26 yards or more, including a 51-yard screen to Caleb Carius that led to seven points.
“We played our butts off, man,” said VanWetzinga, whose team opens district play at home next week against Western Dubuque. “We didn’t start like we wanted to, but I thought we responded terrifically. I’m not surprised by that with the kids that we’ve got. They’re a close-knit group, play hard and play for one another.
“I knew coming in we had a good football team and nothing tonight changed my mind about that.”
The Spartans took the first drive of the third quarter down the field for the go-ahead score, marking the first time the Bulldogs had trailed since Week 1.
But Bell’s fake punt flipped the momentum, and allowed Bettendorf to win its third straight game going into next week’s district opener at Muscatine.
“We didn’t lose focus, we didn’t quit,” Bell said. “We came back in the second half and got a little push there. I thought we got them tired at the end.
“It is always great to beat a rival."