In a season filled with more twists and turns than a classic novel, the Pleasant Valley football team wrote its own final chapter to the regular season Friday.
The Spartans fought off a second-half surge led by the hot hand of Linn-Mar quarterback Marcus Orr to earn a 35-28 victory, a second-place finish in Iowa Class 4A District 4 and in all likelihood, a postseason playoff berth.
"This team, this senior class, we have a real passion for the game," PV quarterback Max Slavens said. "It hasn’t always been easy for us, but we never quit. They made us earn everything, right until the end, but we didn’t give in."
The Spartans didn’t secure the win until Brandon Young wrapped his arms around a tipped pass with 38 seconds remaining, an interception at the Pleasant Valley 13-yard line that ended Linn-Mar’s hopes of a late comeback.
Orr orchestrated the feverish finish, throwing for 235 of the 317 yards he passed for during the final two quarters after Pleasant Valley had taken a 28-6 lead.
The Spartans seemingly had things under control midway through the third quarter, opening the half with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that chewed nearly six minutes off the clock and ended with a 7-yard carry into the end zone by Slavens.
But Linn-Mar didn’t go away.
Orr, who completed 21-of-32 passes, connected on passes of 40 and 49 yards to set up quick drives that ended in the end zone. Coy Sarsfield, who caught eight passes for the Lions, scored on a 5-yard reception and Orr scored on a 2-yard keeper as Linn-Mar pulled within 28-21 after three quarters.
Slavens, connecting on 10-of-14 passes himself, hit receiver Peyton Lindmark for gains of 10 and 25 yards on third-down plays to set up Ben Royer’s second touchdown catch of the game on a 25-yard pass play with 8:16 remaining.
Orr had Linn-Mar back within a touchdown four snaps later, hitting Alex Hess over the middle for a 65-yard touchdown with 6:56 remaining to cut the Pleasant Valley lead to 35-28.
PV (5-4, 4-1 Iowa 4A District 4) went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but an interception by Slavens put the ball back in the Spartans’ hands with 5:09 to go.
Slavens, who rushed for 109 yards on 27 carries, found the ball in his hands but was unable to convert on a fourth-and-1 play that ended inches short of a first down at the PV 45-yard line with 1:40 to go.
"In hindsight, you think about a lot of things, but I wouldn’t have wanted the ball in anybody else’s hands in that situation," Spartans coach Rusty Van Wetzinga said. "It was right decision at the right time, and as was the case all night, our defense came through when we needed it."
Orr moved the Lions (3-6, 2-3) to the Spartans’ 30, throwing a pair of incomplete passes before Young ended Linn-Mar’s comeback hopes with his interception.
"We knew they would come here and give us everything they had. This was their last game, but we didn’t want it to be the end of our season," Slavens said. "Brandon, big-time interception. Just like all night, we were ready to fight for the win and as a team, we got that done."
Slavens threw for two scores, including a 19-yard pass to Royer in the first quarter that saw PV take a 7-6 lead, which grew to 21-6 at halftime after Lindmark scored on an 18-yard halfback pass from Brennan Sarver and Drew Guinn scored on a 49-yard fumble return in the second quarter.