Heads were buried and lips were silent.
North Scott’s football team backed itself into a corner Wednesday night, staring at a 19-point halftime deficit and on the brink of elimination.
“It was probably the quietest we’ve ever been (in the locker room) at halftime,” Lancers linebacker Joe Pancratz said. “It wasn’t a good feeling.”
Just like the second half of its season, North Scott mastered a complete turnaround with 28 unanswered points in the closing 24 minutes to stun Bettendorf 35-26 in a Class 4A playoff opener at TouVelle Stadium.
The Lancers, a sub-.500 team in late September, have won five straight and advance to a second-round tilt with top-seeded Pleasant Valley on Monday night at Spartan Stadium.
“Our kids were searching a little bit,” North Scott coach Kevin Tippet said. “We got punched in the mouth, and they came out and physically took it to us.
“We challenged the kids at halftime — it wasn’t any secret.”
Tailback Bubba Hernandez registered 231 yards and four touchdowns in the first half to propel Bettendorf (6-4) to a 26-7 halftime cushion.
“Coach gave us a choice — fight for our season or lie down and die,” North Scott quarterback Randy Schmidt said.
North Scott chose the former.
The Lancers stuffed the run and intercepted three passes on defense, and their offense scored on all four of their possessions.
Schmidt threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more to complete the comeback. The senior compiled 136 yards rushing and threw for 211 more.
“He’s an all-state guy,” Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley said. “He’s a great player and we knew that.
“We had chances, but we let them back in it and gave up a couple big plays.”
Schmidt connected with Blake Blean for a 69-yard touchdown to ignite the surge 2 minutes into the third quarter.
After North Scott (7-3) stymied Bettendorf on downs, the Lancers marched 59 yards with Schmidt hooking up with Ty Williams for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Schmidt’s two-point conversion run trimmed the deficit to four.
“Momentum completely shifted,” said Schmidt, who completed his final 10 passes. “The defense got momentum in our way and the offense fed off our defense.”
On Bettendorf’s ensuing offensive series, Pancratz picked off Cyle Cox near midfield.
“It was huge,” Tippet said. “He made a play.”
North Scott capitalized on the turnover and short field with Schmidt darting in from 5 yards to give the Lancers their first lead, 28-26.
“We shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers,” Wiley said. “You can’t do that against good teams.”
Still, Bettendorf had an opportunity to regain the advantage. It drove to North Scott’s 22-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs.
Hernandez finished with 289 yards rushing, but was limited to 58 after halftime.
“We decided to stuff the run in the second half and did a great job,” Pancratz said. “Once we got it going, there was no stopping us.”
It ended a season of inconsistency for the inexperienced Bulldogs, who lost three games at home and were plagued by turnovers, defensive breakdowns and special teams miscues.
Bettendorf started four sophomores Wednesday — three on defense.
“We’ve got a bright future, but I hurt for our seniors,” Wiley said. “It is a tough way to end it, but football games come down to making plays and they made more than we did at the end.”
Because of that, North Scott gets another crack at PV, which upended them 28-3 in Week 5.
“We weren’t ready to be done,” Pancratz said. “We were hungry to get this win.”