ELDRIDGE — Through the first six games, Bettendorf’s football team had not encountered too many obstacles.
But after North Scott’s Trevor Kuehl intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown late in the first half Friday night, the Class 4A second-ranked Bulldogs were locked in a 14-all contest on the road.
Bettendorf found another gear after intermission and staved off North Scott’s upset bid with a 31-21 triumph at Lancer Stadium.
“That was great for our team to get pushed,” Bettendorf defensive end Riley Biggs said. “We needed that. When we’re in the playoffs, we’re not just going to roll teams.”
After winning each of their last five games by 24 points or more, the Bulldogs (7-0, 2-0) still had their starters on the field at the end — something that didn't happen the past six weeks.
“I’ve been here 20 years and I don’t think we’ve ever had an easy game out here — even with some of the great teams we’ve had over the years,” Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley said. “It is a tough place to play. It wasn’t pretty and we faced some adversity, but we found a way to get a win.”
According to Biggs and offensive lineman Mark Kallenberger, junior defensive lineman Cameron Maxfield brought the Bulldogs together at halftime and gave a fiery pep talk.
“He’s a good leader and a lot of people look up to him for motivation,” Biggs said. “He just said we needed to relax, this was good for us and we should be happy we’re in a tight game. Tight games are when good players step up.”
Bettendorf’s offensive line and defense delivered in the second half.
Tailback Dax Emerson followed up his five-touchdown performance last week with 172 yards and a pair of scores, and the defense held North Scott’s twin brothers, Kiel and Kier Brown, to just 67 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
“We didn’t come out hard in the first half,” Kallenberger said. “We needed to come out hard in the second half and that’s what we did.”
Jovan Jackson hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Owen Ridenour midway through the third quarter to give Bettendorf a 24-14 cushion.
After stopping North Scott (2-5, 1-2), Bettendorf pieced together an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive over 5 ½ minutes. It was capped with a Dalton McLaughlin 5-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
In particular, Bettendorf’s front line of Kallenberger, Eric Stadelman, Cole Webster, Kamrin Aarons and Josh Pauley paved the way.
“That’s how you win,” said Wiley, whose team secured a playoff berth with the victory. “We have some good players there, and Dax ran hard.”
Ridenour passed for 191 yards for the Bulldogs, who host Dubuque Senior and Davenport West the next two weeks.
“Tonight was kind of a letdown,” Kallenberger said. “We came out kind of soft, but I am pleased with our performance so far this year. We’re seven-and-oh. That’s a great feeling.”
Defeat aside, North Scott coach Kevin Tippet was encouraged with his team’s fight. After a heartbreaking loss at home to Clinton last week, the Lancers threw for a season-high 172 yards and had six players catch passes.
It also had only 25 yards in penalties.
“They’re a good football team, but I believe in our kids and I think we’re good,” Tippet said. “We’re a little snakebit, some of that is our own undoing. The way our kids played tonight, we can play with a lot of teams when we give that kind of effort.”
The Lancers face a pivotal district game next Thursday against Davenport West.
“Thursday night,” Tippet said, “is a playoff game.”
Bettendorf 31, North Scott 21
Bett — Dax Emerson 69 run (Matt Perk kick), 3:07
NoScott — Kier Brown 4 run (TJ Kilian kick), 11:54
Bett — Emerson 5 run (Perk kick), 6:54
NoScott — Trevor Kuehl 25 interception return (Kilian kick), 2:24
Bett — Perk 26 FG, 0:01
Bett — Jovan Jackson 18 pass from Owen Ridenour (Perk kick), 5:24
Bett — Dalton McLaughlin 5 run (Perk kick), 9:16
NoScott — Zeke Blondell 3 pass from Kier Brown (Kilian kick), 0:37
Rushing -- Bettendorf, Dax Emerson 22-172, Owen Ridenour 8-39, Jovan Jackson 2-23, Dalton McLaughlin 3-6, Team 2-(-2), Carlos Wilson 1-(-2). North Scott, Kiel Brown 13-43, Kier Brown 13-24, Killian Gard 2-10, Cole Rollinger 1-(-5).
Passing -- Bettendorf, Ridenour 14-24-1, 191 yards. North Scott, Kier Brown 16-26-0, 172 yards.
Receiving -- Bettendorf, Suni Lane 5-73, Ryan Donovan 4-54, Keaton Cain 1-30, Logan Lira 2-18, Jackson 1-18, Emerson 1-(-2). North Scott, Parker Kearney 3-51, Nate Wilkerson 2-43, Justin Boer 6-36, Zeke Blondell 2-17, Kiel Brown 1-14, Rollinger 2-11.
Sophomores: Bettendorf 27, North Scott 0