By Dan Angell
For the Herald
Mike Miller is well aware that sooner or later, his Central DeWitt football squad is going to have to learn to play four full quarters if it wants to achieve anything. On Friday night in a 28-21 win over Maquoketa, Miller was simply glad that the Sabers didn't have to learn that lesson the hard way.
For the third consecutive week, Central DeWitt followed a familiar script, playing a strong first half before letting up and allowing its opponent to climb back into the game in the second half. The result was that what should have been a comfortable win over its archrival in its district opener turned into a tight battle, and it wasn't until Central DeWitt senior Emmitt Enyeart picked off Trent Bollman's final pass with just over a minute to go that the Sabers could celebrate a win over the Cardinals at Birney Field.
“I'm happy that we came out on top in the end,” Miller said. “You extend that game three more minutes and it's a toss-up. At the end, when we needed to make plays, we were making plays.
“But we've got to get better. The thorn in our back since Week 1 is not coming out in the second half and executing. We've given up too many big plays and allowed teams to rejuvenate themselves, regain momentum and hang around.”
That it didn't cost the Sabers (2-1, 1-0 Class 3A District 6) was a result of the work their offense put in through the first three quarters. Other than an interception on the second play of the game that Jacob Kloft took back 22 yards for a Maquoketa score, the Sabers were brilliant on offense, regularly gashing the Cardinals (1-2, 0-1) for long runs.
Jacob Feldpausch and Jacob Kaufmann did most of the damage, combining for 157 first-half rushing yards on just 13 touches, including a 67-yard scamper from Feldpausch that resulted in Central DeWitt's second touchdown of the contest and put the Sabers ahead to stay.
“You never want a pick on the first drive, but I think we answered pretty good,” Feldpausch said. “We marched all the way down, and they couldn't really stop our O-line at all tonight. We had awesome blocks the whole way down.”
By contrast, the Cardinals took far too long to get started. Maquoketa only had a chance after Ben Strathman breathed new life into his team with an 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter, which proved to be the spark that ignited the Cardinals' attack. Unfortunately for Maquoketa, that proved far too late to overcome the numerous mistakes that plagued it all night long.
The most egregious came in the second half, when two penalty flags on fourth down allowed the Sabers to extend their drives. One resulted in what proved to be the clinching touchdown after the Cardinals jumped offside on a fourth-and-3 near the end of the third quarter, while the other came on a punt with just under three minutes to go, which drained Maquoketa of its three timeouts and led to the game-sealing interception.
“We had too many mistakes,” Maquoketa coach Kevin Bowman said. “Penalties have been our nemesis throughout the season. It was just some foolish things that we feel like we're correcting during the week, but obviously it's not happening because it's not showing up on Friday nights. We had them in a first-and-25, and they end up getting a first down, and that's just one of many things.”
Miller also knew his squad had several things that it needed to correct, but the important thing was that the Sabers had managed to give themselves the chance to learn from a win. The fact that it was a district win that came against their archrivals made the evening much sweeter than it otherwise would have been for Central DeWitt.
“We thought of this as a make-it-or-break-it game,” Enyeart said. “If we lost this game, it's kind of hard to become district champs, but if we won, it gives us a great boost in the beginning.
“Plus, it's a game we'll remember for a long time. Every time we come back to watch DeWitt play Maquoketa, we'll always remember our senior year rivalry, and it'll be a good memory.”
CENTRAL DEWITT 28, MAQUOKETA 21
Maquoketa 7 0 7 7 — 21
Central DeWitt 14 7 7 0 — 28
M — Jacob Kloft 22 interception return (Cory Wirth kick), 11:15
D — Marty Green 3 run (Keegan Lass kick), 8:43
D — Jacob Feldpausch 67 run (Lass kick), 7:08
D — Tyler Stillmunkes 4 run (Lass kick), 3:18
D — Green 5 run (Lass kick), 2:12
M — Ben Strathman 83 kickoff return (Wirth kick), 1:58
M — Kloft 1 run (Wirth kick), 4:01
RUSHING — Maquoketa, Jacob Kloth 16-59, Cole Kueter 10-36, Trent Bollman 5-minus-1. Central DeWitt, Jacob Feldpausch 9-109, Jacob Kagemann 7-117, Marty Green 19-43, Tyler Stillmunkes 12-68, James Grell 1-5, Garrett Jacobs 1-3.
PASSING — Maquoketa, Trent Bollman 5-11-1-129; Central DeWitt, Marty Green 5-9-2-66.
RECEIVING — Maquoketa, Cory Wirth 3-74, Ben Strathman 2-55; Central DeWitt, Tyler Stillmunkes 2-24, Jacob Feldpausch 2-35, Emmitt Enyeart 1-7.