When West Liberty scored twice in the fourth quarter, Camanche trailed by a touchdown with 1:21 to play Friday night in Class 2A District 5 football.
Camanche quarterback Riley Linder hit Luke Reppert with a 15-yard pass over the middle to get the Indians to midfield. On the next play, Linder completed a 5-yard pass to Isaah Jackson. But on second down, Linder’s pass was intercepted by West Liberty’s Erik McKillip. That interception — the third Linder threw in the second half — effectively ended the game, giving West Liberty a 21-14 victory.
“He’s making the reads that we want him to make,” Camanche coach Steve Dougherty said of his quarterback. “A little bit of pressure in his face on that last throw — I think his arm got hit — it was wide open, that’s a difference-maker right there. (We’re) inches away from completing that pass and there’s nobody back there at that point. He’s doing a fine job. What more can you say?”
Camanche (4-4, 3-3) now finds itself in a must-win situation next week to secure a playoff berth. The Indians are tied with Louisa-Muscatine for fourth place in the district, but Louisa-Muscatine holds the tiebreaker because of its victory over Camanche last weekend. The Indians face Wilton, whose only district loss came to Iowa City Regina, while Louisa-Muscatine takes on Durant-Bennett (2-4 in the district). Camanche needs a win and a loss by Louisa-Muscatine to make it to the playoffs.
“We’ve got to win,” Dougherty said. “We’re not dead yet. At 5-4, we can make the playoffs. We’ve got to win.”
In a game dominated by defenses, West Liberty’s made one more big play. McKillip made the game-ending interception, but Kory Wiele’s interception may have been even more important to the Comets. Wiele intercepted Linder’s pass at the Camanche 36-yard line and returned it to the 14 with 3:38 to play. A penalty moved the ball back to the 29.
It took West Liberty five plays — aided by a personal foul on the Indians — to punch the ball into the end zone. West Liberty quarterback Tyler Newsom scored from 1 yard out on a quarterback sneak to put the Comets ahead 21-14.
Earlier in the quarter, West Liberty tied the score when Jordan Meyers took the handoff from Newsom and ran 74 yards for a touchdown. Other than that run by Meyers and a 40-yard run by Gage Shellady, West Liberty gained only 128 yards of offense against Camanche’s defense.
Camanche gained only 134 offensive yards against the Comets.
The Indians led for only 53 seconds before Meyers’ run tied the score, and it was Camanche’s defense that broke the 7-7 tie. Neither team scored in the third quarter, but the Comets were driving early in the fourth quarter.
West Liberty drove down to Camanche’s 14-yard line. Newsom dropped back and threw a pass and Jackson caught it at his shoelaces. He returned the pick 91 yards for a touchdown, giving the Indians their only lead of the game. That was the third turnover Camanche forced West Liberty to commit.
Despite the loss, Dougherty said he saw some good things from his team.
“I think we played probably one of our best games of the season,” he said. “We were very consistent on both sides of the ball, taking care of things. (There were) a couple unfortunate breaks, but that’s part of it. We always talk to the kids about how we control 80 percent and 20 percent is a call here, a bounce there, things you can’t control. I feel like the 80 percent we could control, we did an excellent job tonight.”
In addition to the interception on Camanche’s last offensive possession of the game, another instance of that came shortly before halftime.
After starting with a first-and-10 on their own 20-yard line after a touchback, the Camanche defense stuffed the Comets’ offense. The Indians used their timeouts to preserve time on the clock and West Liberty faced fourth-and-16 from inside their own 14, with 1:49 before intermission. Camanche scored a touchdown on its previous possession — a 1-yard run by Linder — to tie the game.
The Comets punted and Camanche was called for a personal foul of roughing the kicker. The officials walked off the penalty from inside West Liberty’s 15 and ruled it a first down. The Comets drove down the field and missed a field goal as the first half ended, but the momentum seemed to change.
WEST LIBERTY 21, CAMANCHE 14
West Liberty 7 0 0 14 — 21
Camanche 0 7 0 7 — 14
WL — Erik McKillip 23 run (Torben Zoller kick), 2:38
C — Riley Linder 1 run (Alex Goodwin kick), 2:42
C — Isaah Jackson 91 interception return (Goodwin kick), 9:43
WL — Jordan Meyers 74 run (Zoller kick), 8:50
WL — Tyler Newsom 1 run (Zoller kick), 1:27.
Rushing — West Liberty (Erik McKillip 26-98, Jordan Meyers 4-85, Gage Shellady 2-35, Tyler Newsom 12-7, Nickolas Boehme 3-minus-2, Tyron Williams 2-minus-5); Camanche (Brandon Jewell 21-68, Aaron Shum 1-12, Cody Mensinger 4-7, Devin Norman 2-6, David James 2-2, Riley Linder 2-0).
Passing — West Liberty (2-8-2, 28 yards); Camanche (Linder 4-13-3, 39 yards).
Receiving — West Liberty (Williams 2-28); Camanche (Luke Reppert 1-15, Isaah Jackson 2-13, Norman 1-7, Jewell 1-4).