Cobras come up short in high-scoring affair

After successfully eluding defenders all night long, the Cobras finally brought down the speedy Mediapolis running back in the backfield at a crucial time in the game. The Cobras would go on to take the loss 41-33.

Coming into their matchup against Mediapolis on October 19 there was only one thing on the minds of Cobras players, fans and staff. Win the game and have a very real chance at making the playoffs with a spot in the RPI poll placing them just out of contention, but an upset at Mediapolis could push them in.

Things didn’t get off to the best of starts for the visiting Cobras, with the Bulldogs running back the opening kickoff on a handoff after receiving the kick, then the returner was gone for six. Special teams would prove to be an issue in the game as the Cobras found out first-hand just how dangerous Mediapolis could be.

“We knew with special teams they were deadly,” Cobras coach Jared Jensen said. “They probably have the best stats in the state, getting 30 yards per return. Every guy back there we knew they’d be capable, they were fast, and we couldn’t catch them.”

The Cobras responded by starting their first drive off nicely, getting near midfield in just a few plays. A gamble on a 4th and 1 paid off for the Cobras as Sam Sieren squeezed through the front line to keep the drive going. A huge running play after getting into the secondary moved the ball within the red zone, where they would go on to finish the drive with another run by Sam to get into the endzone. With a chance to take the lead early in the quarter, the two-point conversion was no good, resulting in a 7-6 lead for Mediapolis.

The Bulldogs responded with a scoring drive of their own as their kick returner and primary running back got loose and his speed did the rest. With the score, Mediapolis extended their lead 14-6 with just under seven minutes left to play in the opening quarter. SK swung back but missed the punch as JD Stout nearly broke through for a score but fumbled the ball around the 15-yard line. The Cobra defense had several big plays throughout the game, including a huge stop on 4th and 1 to open the second quarter.

“Our defense played one of their best games all season long,” Jensen said. “We were more worried about their run game, but we managed to shut that down and forced them to pass late.”

With the turnover on downs, the Cobra offense was only 20 or so yards away from potentially tying up the game. They did just that, finding the endzone and adding on the two-point conversion to tie it up at 14 apiece with 10 minutes left in the half. With even higher hopes now and the energy flowing throughout the whole team, the Cobras defense came through again. They got a jump start by tracking down the Bulldogs in the backfield with Dawson Baumert getting the tackle near the sideline. That one play alone set the tone for the rest of the drive, which resulted in a punt by Mediapolis.

After a couple running plays the Cobras decided to attempt a deep pass, having sucked the Bulldogs defense in up to that point by strictly running the ball. Stout rolled out and saw that Wyatt Sieren had gotten behind the defense and aired out a pretty pass that Wyatt caught in stride. With only green turf separating Wyatt from the endzone, he did the rest by running for the remaining 40 yards to put SK up 21-14 with 4:14 left in the half.

“I think we wish our passing game could’ve been that effective all year, but their defense was so in tune to the run and we kept sucking them in,” Jensen said. “I just knew it was going to be there when I called it and Wyatt made a hell of a catch and JD had a hell of a throw.”

The lead dissipated in a flash. On the ensuing play, the Bulldogs special teams pulled off their second kickoff return score in the half with another handoff, limiting the number of defenders that could stop the kick returner. It only took 13 seconds for the Cobras to find themselves tied once more with the Bulldogs, but their confident offense would get another chance to make something happen in the first half.

They turned to their one-two punch in the backfield made up of Sam and Stout, whom slowly moved the ball downfield. A couple minutes was all they would need as Stout would cap off the drive by diving into the endzone to take back the lead 27-21. The scoring wasn’t over however as Mediapolis started airing the ball out deep. One big pass play and run moved the ball down within the five-yard line where they would go on to score. Mediapolis would miss the extra point, meaning the game was once again tied 27 all going into the half.

“I thought our offense couldn’t be stopped. We ran around the edge and on the inside and everything was working for us,” Jensen said. “We were getting three or four yards per play and we had success. Our guys kept coming off the field saying they can’t stop us and were telling us what was working.”

SK got the ball first to start the second half, but their drive wouldn’t last long. Stout had his pass intercepted and the defense almost came up with another big stop, but on 4th and 11 the Bulldogs converted with a deep pass for a score. Mediapolis put up another touchdown to go up two scores with just over five minutes left. The Cobras had some things going, but a fumbled snap set them back, although they did manage to recover it. On a long fourth down play and behind by two scores, the Cobras gambled once again. A pass play from Stout to Brady Duwa, who got one foot down before going out of bounds, kept the drive alive but a fumble gave the ball back.

The Mediapolis offense stalled out within their own red zone, which forced their punter to kick just inside his own endzone. A bizarre play in which the Cobras either partially blocked the punt or the kicker booted it straight into the air, led to a possible touchdown for the Cobras. The special teams couldn’t secure the ball and the punter tried to advance it, succeeding to get to the five-yard line. The Cobras were able to get the ball into the endzone again as Stout succeeded in running the ball in. An unsuccessful two-point conversion closed the gap to one score with Mediapolis still up 41-33.

The Bulldogs got the ball back with just over three minutes left and the Cobras finally shut down the return man. A couple first downs was all that was needed by the Bulldogs, followed by a couple kneels to end and win the game.

“This whole season has been a rollercoaster for us and we played a lot of it with next years’ team with all the injuries and guys having to step up, who got a ton of reps for us,” Jensen said. “I told our guys how proud I was for their performance here. Nobody believed we could do this except us, and we came here and battled. We could’ve walked here after a loss and felt sorry for ourselves, I don’t feel sorry for us, but we laid it on the line and came up eight points shy on some mistakes we probably shouldn’t have had.”

Stout finished the game with 238 total yards (123 passing yards and 115 rushing yards) for four scores and Sam racked up 166 rushing yards, averaging over eight yards per rush, for one score. Wyatt led the receiving core with 70 yards on one catch, followed by Duwa who caught two balls for 41 yards and Sam also had one catch for 12 yards.

Several Cobras had great defensive games led by Trent Hendricks who had 6.5 tackles, five of which were solo tackles. Baumert had 5.5 tackles, five solo tackles, two solo tackles for a loss of yard and one solo sack. Zeke Webb had 5.5 tackles, five solo tackles and one solo sack. Kyle Weber and Duwa recorded five tackles apiece and Mac Conrad had four tackles, all solo and two solo tackles for a loss of yards.

The loss officially kept the Cobras from making the playoffs and ended their season with a record of 5-4.

“If you take a couple games back earlier in the year and we manage to stay healthy, then we’d be fine,” Jensen said. “Other than the guys who had season-ending injuries, we finally had most of our guys back. Between weeks three through seven, we were severely depleted. We’re much better than a 5-4 team but just couldn’t get it done every Friday night.”