You can’t turn the ball over if you want to win football games.
Unfortunately for Pleasant Valley, that is what the Spartans did three times in key spots in what was an eventual frustrating 13-7 loss to Cedar Rapids Prairie on Friday night in non-district action.
The final fumble robbed the Spartans (0-2) of a chance to win the game as PV had driven to Prairie’s 6-yard line with 48 seconds left. But junior quarterback Ryan Mumey was stripped of the ball on a quarterback keeper and Prairie’s Skyler Paulsen pounced on the loose ball to set off celebrations on the visiting team’s sideline.
Pleasant Valley was able to move the ball at times but undid themselves with turnovers and holding penalties that killed possible drives. The Spartans also lost a fumble at Prairie’s 13-yard line in the first quarter and then another one at Prairie’s 30-yard line in the second quarter.
A visibly frustrated Spartans coach, Rusty VanWetzinga, said his team simply left too many good chances unfulfilled.
“You can’t the ball over three times. We moved the ball last week too (in a loss to Bettendorf),” VanWetzinga said. “You got to make plays, and we had chances to make plays and we didn’t make them.”
The Spartans were able to keep the Hawks’ rushing attack in check in the first half, allowing just a pair of field goals from Karter Griffin as the visitors led 6-0 at halftime.
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Pleasant Valley took the lead when it took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 76 yards in nine plays, mainly behind the bruising running of Caden Kipper. Mumey used a nice fake to Kipper and scampered 25 yards for the go-ahead TD after Rhys Ward’s point after kick.
But the Hawks answered on the very next drive with their own bruising running back. Nicholas Pearson, who finished with a game-high 230 yards rushing, busted some big runs as the visitors went 80 yards in 11 plays. Pearson finished off the drive with a 26-yard TD run to make it 13-7 with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
The teams traded punts, and Prairie missed a 32-yard field goal attempt with just over four minutes left that would likely have put the game away. Pleasant Valley took advantage of this, moving the ball down to the 6-yard line in seven plays. Included in that, was a huge fourth down conversion as Mumey hit Ben Wilson for a 24-yard gain on a pass play on fourth-and-22.
Aided by a pass interference penalty and some nice runs by Brandon DePover, the Spartans appeared to be on the doorstep of a thrilling, last-minute victory — until they weren’t.
Things don’t get any easier for PV as it travels to North Scott next week. In addition, VanWetzinga said that Kipper, who rushed for 133 yards, left the game late hurt. He said Kipper will likely have to have X-rays to determine if he has an upper body injury.
“We’re 0-2, that’s what I told them,” VanWetzinga said. “We are what we are, we’re 0-2. I am not into mortal victories, the staff is not into moral victories. If the kids are into it for moral victories, they are in the wrong sport.”