SPRINGVILLE — Trailing by two touchdowns, Easton Valley seemingly had the pick-me-up it needed as it drove toward the end zone late in the first half.
Workhorse running back Andrew Driscoll had carried the ball on six of the eight plays in the drive that had taken the River Hawks from their 37-yard line to Springville’s 9. With a little more than a minute left in the half, they called a timeout to set up one of their most important plays of the night. Once again, they called Driscoll’s number.
This time, the Orioles were ready and stopped him for a 1-yard loss.
“That was bad play-calling by me,” Easton Valley coach Kevin Behr said.
“The defense kicked in there,” Springville’s Elias Nissen said. “We’re really confident in our run defense. When it was fourth-and-1, I knew our guys could finish it.”
Still, a 14-point deficit going into the half didn’t seem so bad, especially when a holding penalty negated a long touchdown on a deflected pass and moved the Orioles back to the 1-yard line.
But, as was the case all too often Monday night in Springville’s 68-36 win at Allison Field, the power and speed of Nissen produced another big play that broke the backs of the Easton Valley players.
Nissen got past the defenders on the line of scrimmage, jumped over a defender around the 10 and raced to the opposite end zone for a 79-yard touchdown.
“We think I can run with anyone,” Nissen, a 6-foot-6 senior running back with a combination of speed and power, said. “As long as I get to the second level, not many can catch me.”
All too often there was no second level. It was the fourth of his seven touchdown runs, and he ran for 451 yards on 23 carries to lead unbeaten Springville to the win in the second round of the Iowa eight-player football playoffs.
“They’re a real good football team,” Behr said. “Someone as special as Eli, it just takes a sliver and he’s gone.”
Despite the season-ending loss, the River Hawks (6-4) bowed out knowing they played a much better game in their second chance against the Orioles. Springville won 66-16 the first time the teams met this fall, and Easton Valley managed just 89 yards of offense in that one.
“It was a better effort by everybody,” Easton Valley senior Chase Zaruba said. “We played hard the whole game.”
Behr was proud that despite the potentially huge swing in points just before the half, the River Hawks didn’t lose their spirit.
“I’ve got to give it to our kids,” he said. “I think they played as well as they could. They played their guts out. That’s a really talented team.”
Nissen said the closer rematch was good for the Orioles (11-0), who face top-ranked Gilbertville Don Bosco in Friday’s state quarterfinals.
“It probably will benefit us a lot,” he said. “We know we can pull it out when its close.”
Monday’s game was close early.
Springville took the lead just 41 seconds into the game on a 33-yard run by Cody Blake, but the Orioles fumbled on their second possession, setting up Easton Valley’s first score. Craiton Andresen capped a five-play, 30-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Zaruba.
Nissen’s first touchdown run put Springville back on top 44 seconds later, but just 45 seconds after that, Andresen and Zaruba hooked up on a post-pattern pass for a 65-yard touchdown, and Driscoll’s two-point conversion tied the game at 14.
Easton Valley created a break on Springville’s next possession, when Zach Peiffer intercepted a Sam Scriver pass at the EV 22 and returned it to the Springville 17. But, the Orioles stepped up on defense, stopping the River Hawks on downs at the 15.
“That was big. When you get them to make mistakes, you have to capitalize,” Behr said.
“That’s having pride when we do make mistakes on offense to make plays on defense,” Nissen said.
Springville made sure to capitalize, driving 65 yards in five plays, with Nissen taking the snap and running 14 yards for the go-ahead score.
He scored again on the next possession, picking up a bad snap near the end zone, avoiding a push-out attempt by Zaruba near midfield and going 75 yards for the touchdown.
Then, late in the half came the two huge plays — one on defense, one on offense — and instead of it being a seven-point game with halftime closing in, the lead was 21.
Easton Valley piled up 448 total yards in the rematch, led by three seniors. Driscoll, limited to 35 yards on 17 carries in the first meeting, carried 34 times for 205 yards. Andresen passed for 191 yards, with Zaruba catching five of them for 181 and four scores.
“It was all about the blockers giving the quarterback time,” Zaruba said. “It was a great effort by the line.”
There were just too many big plays by Springville, mostly by Nissen.
“He hits that seam and he’s gone,” Behr said.
Just like Easton Valley’s hopes for an upset.
SPRINGVILLE 68, EASTON VALLEY 36
Easton Valley 14 0 6 16 — 36
Springville 21 14 13 20 — 68
S — Cody Blake 33 run (Brian Allsup kick), 11:19
EV — Chase Zaruba 6 pass from Craiton Andresen (kick blocked), 7:23
S — Elias Nissen 42 run (Allsup kick), 6:39
EV — Zaruba 65 pas from Andresen (Andrew Driscoll run), 5:54
S — Nissen 14 run (Allsup kick), :18
S — Nissen 75 run (Allsup kick), 9:08
S — Nissen 79 run (Allsup kick), :29
S — Nissen 65 run (Allsup kick), 3:12
EV — Zaruba 48 pass from Andresen (run failed), 1:48
S — Kolton Markley 32 pass from Sam Scriver (pass failed), :07
EV — Zaruba 51 pass from Andresen (Andresen run), 10:46
S — Jesse Robertson 11 pass from Scriver (Allsup kick), 9:06
S — Nissen 35 run (run failed), 8:27
S — Nissen 38 run (Allsup kick), 5:00
EV — Driscoll 3 run (Zaruba run), :39
RUSHING — Easton Valley (54-257), Andrew Driscoll 34-205, Chase Zaruba 9-45, Craiton Andresen 8-1, Grant Hinerichsen 3-6; Springville (37-521), Elias Nissen 23-451, Cody Blake 8-66, Sam Scriver 2-3, Tyler Stewart 1-2, Tyler McDowell 2-1, Team 1-minus-2.
PASSING — Easton Valley (9-19-0-191), Andresen 9-19-0-191; Springville (5-13-1-90), Scriver 5-13-1-90.
RECEIVING — Easton Valley, Zaruba 5-181, Blake Bormann 1-9, Driscoll 3-1; Springville, Blake 2-24, Kolton Markley 1-32, Nissen 1-23, Jesse Robertson 1-11.
More photos online Find a photo gallery from Monday's playoff game online at Clintonherald.smugmug.com.