One of the more memorable battles between the Pella High and Knoxville football teams came down to the final plays of the game, as the Little Dutch held on for an exciting 14-13 victory Friday night in Pella.
The Little Dutch took their first lead at 14-7 in the third quarter after a Nathan Clayberg blocked punt turned into an eventual touchdown run by Nathan Henry. That score held until just over two minutes left in the final quarter, when Knoxville running back Colton Spaur punched the ball across the goal line from a yard out. That set the stage for a crucial point after try, and Clayberg’s brother, Noah, made the key play of the night – as he cut through the Panthers’ line to make the game-saving block on the kick.
It was the second time this season the Little Dutch were able to eke out a close win at home.
“I’m just thankful we blocked that extra point. It’s not necessarily that we’ve worked on that – but we do work on a lot of different special teams plays,” said Pella High head coach Jay McKinstrey. “These kids just found a way again, and that’s so cool and so exciting that they hung in there and found a way to win again.”
It was a different tune being sung on the other sideline for the Panthers and their head coach, Troy Rider
“That’s something as a coaching staff that we have to be a little more careful of with the personnel that’s in the game,” said Rider. “We have to coach up our blocking schemes better. Pella did a nice job attacking that, and they attacked it exactly how they showed they did on film, but for whatever reason we didn’t get it blocked well.”
It was another frustrating loss for the Panthers, who outgained Pella on offense 361-to-145, but lost four turnovers and missed some key opportunities to put points on the board. Knoxville’s offense was led by an impressive night from quarterback Gerrit Davis; who was 19-of-31 passing for 310 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. The touchdown came on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage – an 86-yard bomb down the left sideline to Ryan Douglas. However, Knoxville had an uncharacteristically quiet night from Spaur; who was stymied all game and held to 27 yards on 18 carries – with 20 of those yards coming on one play.
Pella’s offensive night – though meager – was a vast upgrade from the previous two weeks. Running back Nathan Henry led the way with 17 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns; while fellow tailback Lukas Steenhoek chipped in 50 yards on 11 carries.
The Little Dutch are now 2-2 overall and off to a 1-0 start in Class 3A District 8, entering next week’s contest at Carlisle. Knoxville is also 2-2 overall, but in an 0-2 hole to open district play. The Panthers have a non-district game this coming Friday at Dallas Center-Grimes.