The West Liberty High School football team survived a back and forth affair Friday at Van Metre field outlasting the hosting Mount Vernon Mustangs in an overtime thriller, 26-20, to advance to the third round of the Class 2A Iowa football playoffs.
The win didn’t come easy for the Comets, outlasting the Mustangs in the back and forth affair to finally win in overtime with an interception from sophomore linebacker J.D. Seering. The interception sealed the deal and advance the Comets to the round of 16 in this year's state football playoffs. Coach Jason Iske’s immediate reaction following the game were simple, “It’s a game. Guys gotta make plays and they made plays. They did a heck of a job.”
Overall, the night was a grind for both teams. The Mustangs returned the opening kickoff to their own 35-yard line before meeting a not-going-to-happen Comet, forcing a punt. Following a short return from Jahsiah Galvan, the Comets started their first possession for their own 40-yard line. Drake Collins set the tone for the Comet offense, getting the nod in the Comets first two offensive possessions and quickly moving the Comets across mid field and into Mustang territory.
The Comets drove the ball inside the five yard line before the drive stalled and they would turn it over on downs.
The Comet defense once again got a chance to prove itself with the Mustangs backed up into the shadow of its own goal posts. The Mustangs were forced to punt it away after senior Kobe Simon recorded a tackle for as loss on third down.
A disastrous punt followed for the Mustangs, as the ball traveled just 17 yards, setting the Comets in prime field possession to start their second drive.
Again, Mount Vernon’s defense rose to the occasion, keeping the Comets out the endzone again and taking the ball over on downs inside the 20.
“They were collected, they stayed cool,” the West Liberty coach said of the missed opportunities. “It was frustrating but they fought until the end.”
After a scoreless first quarter of action, the scoreboard would get some action in the second period as the Mustangs were able to score on a run by Trenton Pitlik with 5:15 left in the half.
The Comets found themselves knocking on the door of the goal line again just before half following a 20-yard connection between quarterback Caleb Wulf and Simon, the big tight end. The play set the Comets up with a first and goal with just over a minute left before the break.
Junior Jahsiah Galvan punched the ball in from four yards out, tieing the game at seven with 51 seconds left in the half.
But the half wasn’t over. Comet J.D. Seering came up with his first interception of the night and give the Comets an opportunity to grab the lead before half time. Galvan took the option pitch on third down to bring the Comets inside the 20 with just 14 ticks remaining.
West Liberty would tap junior Bryan Martinez to kick the go-ahead field goal with five seconds left, but the kick sailed right, leaving the game tied 7-7.
The Comets received the second half kick and senior Lake Newton looked to assert himself on special teams again, bringing the ball into Mustang territory as the Comets set up for from the Mount Vernon 43.
The Comets wasted no time, effectively moving the ball down the field before Galvan found the endzone again from five yards out for this second score of the night, giving the Comets a 14-7 lead following the PAT boot.
The Comets defense forced Mount Vernon into their third punt of the night after the Mustang drive stalled in Comet territory. The ensuing Comets drive ended in disaster, as they coughed the ball up, Mount Vernon recovering deep in Comet territory at the 21-yard line. Despite a stingy Comet defense, Mt. Vernon converted on a fourth and long to get the ball to the five. Two plays later, Pitliok tied the score with about two minutes remaining in the third.
Both teams punted in the next possessions, before Galvan, following the blocks of Lake Newton, took the ball 46 yards to the endzone for another go ahead score, leading 20-14 at 9:37.
The Mustangs wouldn’t go away, driving the ball down the field resulting in Ketchum finding Nosec in the endzone, but an untimely penalty would push the extra point back 15 yards before being missed and tying the game up at 20, with 2:45 left in regulation.
Newton had another great return for West Librty, bringing the ball across midfield to give the Comets an opportunity to win in the fleeting seconds of regulation. The Comets were forced to punt the ball away with 30 seconds left in regulation and uneventfully headed into overtime.
The Comets started with the ball from the 10 yard line in the overtime period. Galvan, the team's quickest running back, picked up three yards on first down before Wulf found Newton on a crossing route to put the Comets head 26-20 following the blocked extra point.
The Comet defense needed a big stop to end the night and survive to play another week. The Mustangs picked up one yard on first before getting tricky on third down.
The plan backfired for Mount Vernon as JD Seering jumped the backward pass and hauled in his second interception of the night to seal the victory.
Willaimsburg big challenge for Comets this Friday
West Liberty High School's football team climbed into the final field of eight Friday with a big win over Mount Vernon, but the team will face a huge challenge this Friday when they travel to Williamsburg. The kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
The Raiders are unbeaten in eight games this year, including an impressive 35-0 win over West Burlington/Ntre Dame last week. Williamsburg opened their playoff run with a 59-0 route of Central Lee. The Raiders are ranked second in Class 2A.
The two teams are familiar with each other, matching up during the preseason for a scrimmage.
Coach Curt Richie's Raiders were rankied going into the season among the Class 2A leaders in various categories, including special teams, interceptions (third with 19) with four returned for touchdowns, fourth in rushing TDs (33) and sacks (23.5) and fifth with 62 total TDs.
Williamsburg has an outstanding quarterback in Levi Weldon, throwing for 11 touchdowns last season. Riley Holt leads the team defensively. They got to the semifinals a year ago.