CLEAR LAKE | When the final buzzer sounded after Friday night’s game, it was complete elation for one sideline and stunned silence on the other.
The fourth-ranked (2A) Lions had mostly cruised through Class 2A, District 2 play and were looking to lock up a perfect district record and a home playoff game Friday night. New Hampton, a team fighting for its playoff life, had other ideas.
The Chickasaws scored twice in the second half and pitched a shutout for the final three quarters as they rallied for a 14-7 victory to clinch a district title.
With their hands on their heads on the other sideline, all the Lions could do was watch in disappointment on a night which they thought would belong to them.
“It was a tough night,” Clear Lake coach Jared DeVries said. “Obviously that last drop is the finality, but the kids fought. We just didn’t do things well tonight in any phase. We didn’t coach well, we didn’t tackle well, we didn’t throw well, we didn’t run well, we didn’t block well — we just weren’t ourselves.
“But it’s adversity for our team. We’ll learn from it. We’ve dealt with it all year and we’ll get better.”
The way the opening quarter ended, and even the whole first half, had the Lions (7-2, 5-2) feeling like they were on the right track to their own district title.
Late in the first, quarterback Jaylen DeVries marched Clear Lake down the field to give the Lions a 7-0 lead after a 10-play, 85-yard drive that was capped off by a circus-like catch by Zach Lester which he tipped up to himself in double coverage for a 28-yard touchdown reception.
Even on defense, Clear Lake, which held the Chickasaws to zero yards in the first quarter, was causing havoc frequently in the back field. The Lions went into the locker room with a 7-0 lead and outgained New Hampton 148-38.
Then came a second half which was flipped on its head.
Clear Lake had its drives keep stalling with negative plays or penalties, and New Hampton found something that worked with quarterback Keagan John using his legs to pick up yards in chunks.
New Hampton scored on an eight-yard pass from John to Brayden Fisher with 7:43 left in the third, but missed the kick to tie the game, down 7-6.
In the fourth, New Hampton marched down again to score the go-ahead touchdown on a five-yard run by Max Schwickerath, and tacked on the 2-point conversion to take a 14-7 lead with 7:46 remaining.
Jaylen DeVries was picked off on the Lions’ next drive, and after a defensive stop, the Lions were moving the ball with under two minutes to play, but a pass on 4th and 16 sailed high in Lions’ territory to seal their fate.
“When you get behind in plays you don’t have a lot of plays for first-and-20, first-and-30 and you’ve just got to overcome it. We weren’t able to tonight,” Coach DeVries said.
Clear Lake outgained New Hampton on the night 254-174 as Jaylen DeVries finished with 212 yards through the air. Lester hauled in 10 passes for 162 yards and the lone score.
For New Hampton, which needed a win to make the playoffs after Crestwood took care of Forest City, it didn’t matter how it happened. They were just happy it did.
“We really had to fight for it and this team has had to come a long ways,” New Hampton coach Scott Frerichs said. “We knew we weren’t in for sure unless we could we tonight so we had our chance in front of us. It’s pretty special, I think, for these guys. It’s a group of guys who were kind of counted out early and they kept fighting back and getting better.”
The win gives the Chickasaws a home playoff game next Friday and the Lions will hit the road after finishing second in district play. Playoff pairings came out early Saturday morning.
With its first loss since Week 2 at Webster City, Clear Lake will have a week to try and pick itself up for a tough test wherever it lands.
“We will. I’m confident in that,” Coach DeVries said. “This team has handled adversity all year and we’ll stick together. We’ll lock arms and stick together and be ready for our next challenge."