Bettendorf’s football team walked out of Valley Stadium following last year’s season opener dejected and humbled.
Even though the outcome was the same in the rematch Friday night, the Bulldogs left TouVelle Stadium much more upbeat.
After perennial state power West Des Moines Valley continuous-clocked Bettendorf by 36 points in 2016, the Bulldogs battled the Tigers deep into the fourth quarter.
In the end, Jevon Mason was just too much for Bettendorf. The all-state tailback rushed for 190 yards and two long touchdown runs in Valley’s 23-16 triumph.
“Last year was just a debacle,” Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley said. “I’m not into moral victories, but I thought tonight we played for four quarters. Our guys fought and that’s encouraging.”
Mason, a three-year starter who has more than 60 career touchdowns in a Valley uniform, ripped off touchdown runs of 94 and 57 yards.
The 5-foot-10 and 203-pound senior utilized his speed, strength and agility to race past Bettendorf’s defense.
“Coach talked about big plays all week,” Bettendorf defensive end Jatten Kuhrt said. “(Mason) is just a freak athlete, and everybody knows that. We prepared for him as best as we could, but he’s a great player.”
Other than Mason and receiver Tariq Brown, Valley’s offense is very inexperienced with a new quarterback and mostly a new offensive line.
“He’s a special player, no doubt,” Valley coach Gary Swenson said of Mason. “We leaned on him. It is nice to have a guy that can make a play.”
Other than Mason’s two runs that covered 151 yards, Valley was limited to 123 yards. Bettendorf fought field position most of the game as Valley started five drives at midfield or inside Bulldog territory.
“Special teams really hurt us with punt return yardage and kick returns,” Wiley said.
Mason’s second touchdown run midway through the third quarter gave Valley a 23-6 cushion.
Bettendorf, held to only 62 total yards in the first half, found some footing offensively.
Quarterback Carter Bell led a 12 play, 90-yard drive that took more than 6 minutes. It ended with Bell plowing into the end zone from 6 yards early in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs’ defense responded with a three and out.
Bell, who was 13 of 17 for 127 yards through the air in his Bulldog varsity debut, connected with Cam Teagarden for 56 yards.
With second and goal from the 1, Bettendorf couldn’t punch it in and had to settle for a field goal to trim the deficit to seven with 7:32 remaining.
“We did a great job coming back strong and staying in it and not letting our focus down,” Bell said. “Everyone was a little nervous and that showed in the first half. Once we got into halftime, we got ourselves straightened out and came out with a good push.”
Bettendorf got the ball back on its own 20 with 5 minutes left, a chance to even the game. The Bulldogs went backwards and were forced to punt.
Valley converted a third and 9 on the ensuing possession and was able to run out the clock.
“We left our defense out there way too long in the second half,” Swenson said. “When we did score, it was so quick. It was one of those nights you have to overcome mistakes.
“What I do feel good about is, we came on the road and beat what traditionally is a very good team. I told our players don’t ever feel bad about anything that happened in a win because they’re too hard to get.”
Bettendorf saw plenty of positives.
Besides Bell, Nijel McInotsh ran for more than 70 yards and the Bulldogs committed only four penalties and had no turnovers.
“Everybody was thinking it was going to be a blow out like last year,” Kuhrt said, “but we kept it competitive throughout the whole game. We stayed together the whole time.”