Bettendorf's football team needed a jolt.
With starting quarterback Carter Bell sidelined with a shoulder injury and North Scott stuffing the box to stop the run, the Bulldogs were in a precarious spot trailing by four points in the fourth quarter Friday night.
Justin Wehr and Darien Porter provided the spark.
Porter hauled in his only two receptions of the game on the same series, including the eventual game-winning score, to ignite fourth-ranked Bettendorf past ninth-ranked North Scott 31-21 in a riveting Class 4A state quarterfinal at TouVelle Stadium.
“You have to make big plays sometimes, you have to step up,” said Porter, whose team advances to a state semifinal against top-ranked Iowa City West at 4:06 p.m. next Friday at the UNI-Dome. “I felt like I had to step up at that moment, and it happened.”
Faced with third-and-8 from its own 40 with a little more than 9 minutes left and down 21-17, Wehr lofted a pass in the middle of the field. The 6-foot-4 Porter jumped up to snatch it for a 27-yard gain.
Two plays later, on a slant-and-go route, Porter beat the defensive back and caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Wehr for the go-ahead score.
“He’s a big-time guy,” Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley said of Porter. “In the big games, big-time players got to make big-time plays. That was a perfect example.
“Darien Porter has an unbelievable future. That was huge.”
Porter, the reigning 400-meter state track and field champion, has been hindered by a wrist injury all season. He came into the game with only six receptions but was averaging 30 yards a catch, and half had gone for scores.
“In a game like that, there were five or six plays that were there to be made,” North Scott coach Kevin Tippet said. “They made a couple big plays to swing the momentum back.”
North Scott (9-2) drove inside the Bettendorf 25-yard line with less than 3½ minutes to go. On fourth and 7, the Lancers misfired on a 40-yard field goal.
Keaton Rheingans came into the game 4 of 5 on field goals, with a long of 41.
“He’s hit the (heck) out of the ball for us,” Tippet said. “He just mishit it. I think that was the right call. The odds of getting (seven) yards against a very good defensive team there is tough.”
Nigel McIntosh secured the game five plays later. The senior tailback darted 63 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown to make it a 31-21 margin.
McIntosh finished with 171 yards on 31 carries, his second consecutive game over the 170-yard mark.
“My coaches told me to hold onto the ball and run straight,” he said. “I listened to them, followed the linemen, found a hole and just hit it. I knew I had to seal the game right there.”
Both teams rallied around adversity.
Bettendorf (10-1) raced out to a 17-0 lead behind two touchdown runs from Bell. North Scott had to overcome the loss of captain Drake Golinghorst, who suffered a serious leg injury on a kickoff return and was taken off by ambulance.
The Lancers mounted a charge with 21 straight points. Nile McLaughlin had three rushing scores covering 2, 5 and 1 yards.
Tailback Jared Rus ran for 126 yards, and the Lancers accumulated 372 total yards against a defense that had yielded only two touchdowns in the last 19 quarters.
“I tell you what, down 17-0 and to lose a captain to kind of a freakish injury and look at the emotion on our sideline, and for our kids to respond the way they did, I can’t say enough words about them,” Tippet said. “It makes me a little teary-eyed thinking about it. I’m really proud.”
Bettendorf overcame an injury, too.
Midway through the second quarter, Bell — the catalyst of Bettendorf’s offense all season — was sacked. He was kicking the turf writhing in pain, holding his left shoulder.
Bell walked off but did not return, and Wiley was uncertain of his status moving forward.
It deflated the Bulldogs for much of the third quarter and the start of the fourth
“We’re very persistent, never get down too much,” Porter said. “We’re a family so we have to stick together.”
The offense rallied around Wehr. The defense came up with a couple critical stops, including interceptions from Blake Rollinger and Alex Blizzard, to collect its fourth semifinal trip in the past five seasons.
“Our kids could have easily pitched it when that (Bell injury) happened,” said Wiley, who earned his 100th win as the Bulldogs’ coach. “Our kids just absolutely battled, and we found a way to gut it out.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these kids.”
North Scott was seeking its first trip to the semifinals in program history. Still, the Lancers managed to claim a district title, win a playoff game and were state-ranked following a 5-5 season.
“Our seniors set a really high bar,” Tippet said. “I know we’ve been here before, but I thought our kids really committed in the offseason and did a great job from the get-go.
“Now, it is a matter of where our underclassmen pick up. Are we going to have peaks and valleys or are we going to sustain it? That’s the challenge to our underclassmen to take this and continue that.”