EXIRA, Iowa — Eight-Man coaches think a little differently, and with good reason.
A 35-12 score in 11-man football rarely is overcome. In Eight-Man, it’s a little more common, and Coon Rapids-Bayard coach John Kesselring knows it. That’s why he was conceding nothing entering the fourth quarter Friday night, trailing Exira-EHK after a 65-minute weather delay.
“In Eight-Man, 23 points is what, five minutes in a 12-minute game?” Kesselring said.
State No. 1 Exira-EHK didn’t allow the Crusaders any openings after the delay. Junior quarterback Drew Peppers added his fifth rushing touchdown, and senior Trey Sander tacked on his second as the Spartans clinched the Eight-Man, District 7 title with a convincing 49-12 win over state No. 7 Coon Rapids-Bayard.
With its 18th straight district win, Exira-EHK, also first in The World-Herald’s western Iowa ratings, improved to 6-0 overall and 6-0 in district play. The Crusaders, rated third in WI, dropped to 6-1 and 4-1.
During the weather delay, Spartan coach Tom Petersen sent his players to the weight room.
“They’re there three days a week at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Petersen said. “That’s where they want to go. They went up there and they talked through some of the things, because Coon had come out and actually did three or four formations that we had not prepared for. So it gives you an opportunity to get a few things aligned.”
Through six weeks, Exira-EHK’s quarterback has had his game perfectly aligned, and Friday was another example. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Peppers carried 25 times for 253 yards and the five scores, and completed 7 of 8 passes for 96 yards. In addition to the 349 total yards, he made 13 assisted tackles and three solos.
“He’s a horse and he wants the ball,” Petersen said. “In the second half, one of the things we did is we widened the field out to give him more space to run.”
Coming off a 55-7 win over West Harrison, Coon Rapids-Bayard stayed in contact throughout the first half, using a physical brand of football.
Trailing 14-0, the Crusaders used a pair of big plays to get back into it. Senior quarterback Brett Carstens sprinted 65 yards on a keeper, and the Crusaders forced a Spartan three-and-out.
On the next play, senior Caylor Deeth got behind the Exira-EHK defense and Carstens hit him in stride. He completed the 67-yard touchdown catch to pull the visitors within 14-12 after one quarter.
It stayed that way until late in the first half. Peppers rifled completions of 28 and 20 yards to Tate Simpson, then ran 14 yards for a touchdown with 1:31 left before the intermission to give the Spartans a 21-12 lead at the break.
Peppers ran 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-12 early in the third, and on fourth-and-inches at the Exira-EHK 37, he sprinted 43 yards to paydirt to push the advantage to 35-12.
Kesselring said he found plenty of positives that his team can build on. But he was disappointed that his club let things get away in the second half.
“They’re a really good football team, and it’s going to take a really good effort by somebody to get them,” he said. “But I don’t feel like there’s a huge disparity here. It was a good football game.”
Exira-EHK finished with a 437-253 edge in total yards. Peppers’ older brother, senior all-state linebacker Nick Peppers, continues to make strides after missing time to a shoulder injury and had 10 assisted tackles and five solos.
Petersen said his veteran players know that in a four-quarter game, there’s no reason to panic if things don’t go perfectly early on.
“Especially with the kids that we have back from a year ago, and what they experienced being down last year,” Petersen said. “Against Glidden-Ralston, you’re down 18, 20 points going into the fourth quarter. They understand that it’s four quarters of football, and we stress that big time.”
Coon Rapids-Bayard (6-1, 4-1) ............................ 12 0 0 0—12
At Exira-EHK (6-0, 6-0) ............................ 14 7 14 14—49
E: Drew Peppers 68 run (Zach Kliefoth kick)
E: Trey Sander 9 run (Kliefoth kick)
CRB: Brett Carstens 65 run (run failed)
CRB: Caylor Deeth 67 pass from Carstens (pass failed)
E: Peppers 14 run (Kliefoth kick)
E: Peppers 24 run (Kliefoth kick)
E: Peppers 43 run (Kliefoth kick)
E: Sander 37 run (Kliefoth kick)
E: Peppers 6 run (Kliefoth kick)
RUSHING: CRB, Brett Carstens 9-69, Zach Evans 19-60, Sam Obert 6-7, Caylor Deeth 2-7, Brandon Evans 3-(-14). E, Drew Peppers 25-253, Trey Sander 11-86, Nick Peppers 2-2.
PASSING: CRB, Brett Carstens 5-17-1, 115 yards; Brandon Evans 1-1-0, 9 yards; Brandon Riley 0-2-0. E, Drew Peppers 7-8-0, 96 yards.
RECEIVING: CRB, Caylor Deeth 3-94, Zach Dentlinger 2-21, Spencer Winnett 1-9. E, Tate Simpson 2-48, Trey Sander 4-23, Nick Peppers 1-25.