BELLEVUE — An uncharacteristic first half from Bellevue quarterback Cade Daugherty put the Comets in a hole they just couldn’t dig out of, and they fell to the Wilton Beavers 28-14 in the first round of the Iowa Class 1A playoffs Friday night.

“I thought these were two very even teams that fought hard,” Bellevue Coach Chet Knake said. “It was a hard-hitting, close game that just got swung on some big plays. Tonight we didn’t make those big plays and Wilton did. Give them all the credit.”

After a defensive battle for most of the first quarter, Wilton’s Jerome Mays intercepted a pass from Daugherty and ran it in for the first score of the game. A pass from Mays to Brock Hartley for the two-point conversion gave the Beavers the 8-0 lead.

“Mays is a great player, and we held him in check most of the game,” Knake said. “We knew he was going to make some big plays, and our offense just didn’t do that job. He wore us down and toward the end he made some big plays.”

That wasn’t it. Just 35 seconds later, Chantz Stevens picked off another of Daugherty’s passes and ran that one in as well. Another good conversion gave Wilton the 16-0 advantage.

The Beavers scored again early in the second quarter to put them up 22-0.

“Turnovers are key in football,” Knake said. “And we had too many big turnovers”

The momentum shifted at the end of the first half. A long run from Hunter Clasen put the Comets within 34 yards of the goal line. Daugherty then found brother Trey Daugherty 23 yards downfield. A pass interference call against the Beavers gave the Comets first-and-goal.

Clasen powered it in from a yard out with just 35 seconds left in the half, and the extra point was good. The Comets got on the board and went into the locker room for halftime down 22-7.

“I’ll be honest, I felt real good going in 22-7,” Knake said. “They don’t quit, and they were building on the momentum. We just couldn’t make that play.

“We had them where we wanted them, and all the momentum was on our side. Our defense was playing great.”

Bellevue had a 387-209 advantage in total offense.

The energy was completely in Bellevue’s hands at the start of the second half. Senior Zach Bullock grabbed an interception of his own to give the Comets a first down in Beavers territory. After a few rushing attempts, including a long one from Clasen, the Comets found themselves on the 3-yard line.

Still, it was a struggle to score. The first attempts resulted in lost years, and then a holding penalty brought up a third down with 13 yards to go.

“Every play we needed to make, we didn’t make and Wilton did,” Knake said. “Wilton earned it.”

Cade Daugherty stepped up and found Clasen for the 13-yard touchdown pass, and the Comets pulled closer with a 22-14 score halfway through the third quarter.

That was the last time the Comets found the end zone, despite opportunities. They got within 15 yards twice more and recovered a punt fumble in Beavers territory.

“We came out in the second half and did exactly what we wanted to do and scored,” Knake said. “We get the ball back a couple times. I give all the credit to Wilton — they stepped up and stopped us.

“Our bread and butter all year was to be able to run the ball inside the goal line, and we couldn’t do that.”

The final Beavers touchdown was a run by Mays with 5:20 left in the game to give Wilton the 28-14 advantage and end Bellevue’s playoff run.

“It’s better to go out in the playoffs rather than not going out in the playoffs,” Knake said. “We didn’t quite play our football game tonight, which is the only reason I was disappointed.

“I am so happy with their effort, energy and what they did all year. I’m proud of them that way.”

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