There the ball sat, at their own 10-yard-line with a mere 2:41 to play in the game as the Anamosa football team trailed winless Tipton 14-8 Friday, Oct. 1.
The Raiders, who celebrated Senior Night before the start of the contest, were also looking for their first victory of the 2021 campaign, and knew if this last-gasp drive couldn’t result in a touchdown, the goal of sending that senior class out with a win playing on their home field for the final time in their football careers, would not come to fruition.
“We got the ball for that last drive and had 90-yards to go with not a lot of time on the clock,” said Raider senior Grahm Humpal, who methodically, but quickly guided the Anamosa offense down the field and scored on a seven-yard touchdown run with just 20.3-seconds remaining on the fourth quarter clock.
“My only thought as we started that final drive was ‘don’t stop running.’ We just had to keep going and keep believing that we could do this and come back and get the win. Thankfully, we all believed it could happen, and then at the end, it did.”
Humpal’s touchdown run tied the score at 14-14. Now the Raiders (1-5, 1-2), without their kicker Jay Gatto who was injured in the loss to Camanche just a week earlier, needed the all-important two-point conversion to win the game.
“That touchdown to tie the game felt great, but it wasn’t time to celebrate yet,” Humpal said. “We needed the two-point conversion to win. We still had work to do.”
Humpal made sure the game would not go to overtime, finding the end zone with some help from some outstanding blocking on the two-point conversion run, and a huge Anamosa home crowd erupted as the Raiders led 16-14.
“That two-point run felt a lot better than the touchdown,” Humpal said. “We had the lead back, but the game wasn’t quite over yet.”
Tipton still had 20-seconds to work with trying to find some sort of way to come back, but a Raider defense that had played so well all night long, was just not going to allow it.
“We practiced all week on what our responsibilities were and we executed well all night long,” said Anamosa junior Kale Nebergall, who helped that defense stop the Tigers’ final drive, and then celebrated with teammates, coaches and fans as the clock ran out on the Tipton offense as the hosts posted a thrilling 16-14 triumph that allowed Anamosa to claim the Battle Since 1922 trophy, the hardware the two teams have played for since 2015.
“The coaches put us in the position to be successful, and everyone did what they were supposed to do. It was great to see it all come together like that in the end. It’s one I’ll never forget.”
Anamosa football coach Caleb Huss had complete confidence his team could execute under the extreme pressure-filled conditions, on both sides of the football.
“Our last drive was a great two-minute drill for our guys,” he said. “It’s something we work on and talk about each week. With our normal pace, the amount of time on the clock and time-outs, we did not see any panic from our guys at all.
“Some plays that stick out in my mind were a few big runs from Kale picking up first downs, Devin Brophy’s catch for a good chunk of yardage and Kole Dietiker’s catch to pick up a short first down that turned out to be even more after a Tipton penalty. Grahm did a nice job managing the clock and keeping everyone moving, but not in a hurry. His poise in the red zone at the end of the drive is a big reason why we finished it off with a touchdown. The two-point conversion was nothing fancy, but our guys, again, stepped up and made sure we got the ball into the end zone.”
Amazingly, Anamosa faced just one third-down play call on their final scoring drive when Dietiker grabbed a 13-yard pass from Humpal on third and eight, then after a personal-foul penalty against the Tigers moved the football to the Tipton 23-yard-line, the visitors were surely feeling the pressure.
“I think our experience having been in this position before helped us on that last touchdown drive,” Humpal said. “We hadn’t experienced a win yet, at least this year, but we have played in some close games and we knew what we needed to do. No one was feeling the pressure. We were ready for this.”
On the ensuing kick-off, Tipton’s Caden Schmidt returned the football and appeared to get to the corner looking for a big return before Raider junior Tysen Gravel stepped up and made a huge tackle, slamming Schmidt to the ground at the Tiger 35-yard-line.
From there, the Anamosa defense took over ending the game.
“Defensively, we probably played our best game of the season so far,” Huss said. “We only gave up 175 yards of total offense and just tackled really well.
“What goes unnoticed by some, but is something we preach all the time is just how well our guys up front played to their responsibilities. Cole Sigler did a great job moving back to outside linebacker this week and Sam Wilt (playing his first game since the season-opener) was great up front. We thought our linebacking crew in general did a great job this week. Tysen Gravel and Aiden Strube played really well at the corners and had zero coverage breakdowns. Devin, Grahm and Kole played really well at safety, not giving up much in the passing game and being huge run supporters. After a few adjustments at the half, our defense played extremely well in the second half. There were times they were put in bad positions and they continued to step up and get our offense back on the field.”
Early on, it appeared the game was going to be a scoring-fest as Anamosa received the opening kick-off and immediately marched right down the field and scored, culminating with a Dietiker 11-yard touchdown reception from Humpal.
After a successful two-point conversion pass to Sigler from Humpal, the hosts had a quick 8-0 lead.
Tipton did the same on the very next possession, their first offensive series of the contest and scored thanks to a 62-yard scamper from Kaleb Nerem.
After a successful extra-point try, the Tigers trailed 8-7 which is where the score stayed until 5:59 to play in the second quarter when Tipton’s Griffin Naderman hauled in a 25-yard pass from quarterback Carter Hill to give the Tigers the lead.
Amazingly, and little did anyone know that it at the time, but it would be the final touchdown until Anamosa’s late-game heroics.
“It did look like both teams were going to put up a lot of points with the way this thing started,” Humpal said. “But our defense stepped up and got the job done. We were a little frustrated offensively because we were able to move the ball against them, we just couldn’t end those drives with points.
“That was, until the very end, and I guess that’s all that matters.”
The Raiders finished with an impressive 433 yards of total offense, led by 203 rushing yards from Humpal on 31 carries. Nebergall added 58 yards on 12 attempts while Humpal was also 10-of-17 passing for another 143 yards through the air, with Brophy and Dietiker being his main targets hauling in four passes each for 46 and 18 yards, respectively.
Wilt also had a long 57-yard reception for the Anamosa offense.
Nebergall was all over the field defensively all night long for the Raider defense making a team-best 11 tackles while Sigler added nine more with Wilt chipping in with eight.
“I just could not be happier for these guys,” Huss said. “They deserved this win. No matter the situation or what happens each week, they continue to show up ready to work and learn.
“We talked after last week about making this a three-game season and really jump-starting a run here at the end. These seniors (Wilt, Humpal, Dietiker, Jake Jess, Aaron Casey, Max Merrill, Xander Brown, Ky Kaufmann, Conor Fortune, Justin Siefker, Logan Dales, Peyton Boeckenstedt, Dalton Soper, Keegan Campbell and Alex Shover) have been amazing for our school and our program. It has been an honor getting to coach these guys and having a group like this come through to show the young guys what needs to be done and add building blocks to the program. Getting to see them leave the field with a victory, especially the way they did it, could not have been a sweeter feeling for them.”