MANNING, Iowa — The driving rain stopped after halftime. Not coincidentally, that’s when Underwood really got going.
A gusting rainstorm grounded the Eagles’ usual quick-strike passing game, but it couldn’t keep them out of the end zone in the first half. They added a pair of long drives after the break, then celebrated a district championship in mud-soaked football uniforms after a 28-6 win over IKM-Manning on Friday night.
With the Iowa Class 1-A, District 1 crown going to the game’s winner, No. 4 Underwood (9-0, 6-0) wrapped up an unblemished regular season with its customary dominance on both sides of the ball. The Eagles rolled up 252 rushing yards — led by Jarrett Waters and his 124 yards on 18 carries — while the defense allowed its lone score on a broken-coverage sequence just before halftime.
The district crown is believed to be Underwood’s first since 2002.
“We talked to the kids all week about making history and being one of the first,” Underwood coach Nate Mechaelsen said. “I don’t know if an Underwood team has gone unbeaten in the regular season, but if so there are very few. We talked about just leaving your stamp on the program. We didn’t want to share a district title.”
Underwood scored twice on fourth-down plays to help knock off last year’s district champ. Up 7-0 late in the first half and facing a fourth and 9, Eagles quarterback Nick Pedersen hit Tyler Conn in the end zone for a 16-yard score. That drive — lasting six plays — was set up by a Jared Martin interception.
Another key passing conversion capped a 16-play drive in which Underwood exclusively ran the ball. With Pedersen leaving briefly with a cramp, third-string QB Isaiah Humphrey lofted a deep pass to Conn, who adjusted back to the ball and made the grab to make it 28-6 with 8:55 left in the game.
“We couldn’t quite catch a break,” IKM-Manning coach Tom Casey said. “There’s more pressure when you’re playing with a one-touchdown lead instead of three. It’s harder to call the game you want. I thought the kids played pretty well. (Underwood) just made three or four more plays than we did at critical times.”
Waters ran for a 31-yard score into blowing rain for the first score of the night early in the second quarter. Down 14-0 just before intermission, IKM-Manning quarterback Kyle Wagner found a wide-open Jared Vollstedt across the middle for a 33-yard touchdown with 9 seconds to go.
With the rain gone after halftime, Underwood came out by traveling 65 yards in four plays — and ended with a 13-yard John Schnack rushing touchdown to go ahead 14-6. The Eagles didn’t feel threatened the rest of the way in what was their second narrowest margin of victory this season. They lost to the Wolves 38-6 a season ago.
“The biggest difference is the attitude,” Waters said. “Everybody here wants to play and in years before people didn’t. Our attitude is insanely better than years before.”
Pedersen went 3 of 8 passing with 45 yards and two interceptions in the rain. But a ground game picked him up, with Schnack (62 yards) and Humphrey (41) also churning out steady gains.
Ridge Muhlbauer was the leading rusher for the hosts with 63 yards on 13 carries. IKM-Manning falls to the No. 3 seed in the district with the playoffs starting next week.
Underwood, meanwhile, is ready to see just how far its dream season can last.
“That rain is our equalizer just because of the way we throw the ball,” Mechaelsen said. “To the kids’ credit, we did what we had to do. Under the circumstances, I thought we played pretty well.”
Underwood (9-0, 6-0).................0 14 7 7—28
At IKM-Manning (6-3, 4-2)..........0 6 0 0— 6
U: Jarrett Waters 31 run (Colin Opstvedt kick).
U: Tyler Conn 16 pass from Nick Pedersen (Opstvedt kick)
I: Jared Vollstedt 33 pass from Kyle Wagner (kick failed)
U: John Schnack 13 run (Opstvedt kick)
U: Conn 24 pass from Isaiah Humphrey (Opstvedt kick)
RUSHING: U, Jarrett Waters 18-124, John Schnack 17-62, Isaiah Humphrey 8-41, Nick Pedersen 8-25. I, Ridge Muhlbauer 13-63, Coltan Lesle 16-43, Jared Vollstedt 5-15, Jared Johnson 1-(-5), Noah Harlow 1-(-2), Kyle Wagner 2-(-1).
PASSING: U, Pedersen 3-8-2 45; Humphrey 1-1-0 24. I, Wagner 5-18-1 83.
RECEIVING: U, Tyler Conn 3-40, Jared Martin 1-29. I, Vollstedt 3-75, Jared Johnson 1-4, Harlow 1-4.
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