In one of the most unlikely endings to a high school football game West Liberty fans have ever witnessed, the Comets football team, riding on a never-say-die attitude after getting shut down for two weeks in mid-season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, put together a miracle play they couldn’t even have imagined Friday night to stay alive in the Iowa State High School football playoffs.
It all came down to just seven seconds remaining in regulation as host and highly favored Williamsburg marched their field goal unit onto the field with high hopes of breaking a 14-all tie. The gutsy Comet season could likely end on a 39-yard field goal – a single play that didn’t have the conclusion the hosts would have wanted after eight straight wins.
It was a high snap, but a good hold before West Liberty’s 6-4 senior defensive lineman Kobe Simon busted through the Raider front line and stuck his hands into the air to bat the ball down.
The kick is blocked, but the play wasn’t over. Senior team leader Lake Newton scooped up the ball at the 5 and sprinted down the field to score as time expired, going untouched and lifting the Comets to the most improbable victory, 20-14, over the number two ranked 2A Raiders, a stunned group left watching the Comet celebration.
Veteran Comet coach Jason Iske wrapped the game up in one simple word - “Pride.”
“There was no give up in these guys,” he said.
The come-from-behind win, for the second week in a row against a ranked team, didn’t come easy, with West Liberty gathering momentum late in the game when junior quarterback Caleb Wulf connected with classmate and star running back Jahsiah Galvan on a 21-yard pass with just 1:08 remaining in the game. It was the result of a fourth and 11 do-or-die play that again proved Comet pride was alive and well. The touchdown capped a 71-yard game tieing drive that started at 4:52.
The game started on a high note defensively for the Comets, forcing the Raiders into back to back three and outs before putting points on the score board.
Galvan, who recorded 200 all-purpose yards on the night, used his speed and agility to give the Comets the opening score of the night on an 83-yard dash up the sidelines. The Comets took a 7-0 lead following the made extra point.
Galvan made his presence known on the defensive side of the ball in the Raiders next possession, intercepting Levi Weldon and giving the Comets the ball deep in Raider territory. The Raiders matched the Comets touchdown with their own with 1:54 left in the half.
The Comets came out of the halftime break with a trick play. Sophomore Drake Collins connected with Newton, a wide receiver, to set the tempo coming out of the locker room, but the drive fizzled. The teams traded possession after the break until Weldon connected with Steinmetz to give the Raiders the 14-7 advantage with about two minutes left in the third quarter.
The teams traded punts and turnovers until late in the 4th period. Caleb Wulf, who dealt with heavy pressure all night, found himself having to heave the ball down field to avoid the sack. As he was pulled to the ground, the ball was intercepted and the Raiders seemed to have secured the ball game. But the interception would be negated by a roughing the passer penalty and breathe new life into the Comets drive.
The Comets took the second wind all the way down to the Raiders 25 yard line before facing the fourth and long. Wulf evaded the pressure again and connected with Galvan for the tying score with 68 seconds left.
The Raiders would get an opportunity to seal the game moving the ball down the field with ease and setting up the game winning field goal before having it blocked and returned by Newton in a stunning ending.