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Pella Builds Huge First Half Lead, Holds on to Advance to Fourth Straight Championship Game

Posted: Friday, November 10th, 2017 at 6:01 am
Author: KNIA/KRLS Sports - Trevor Castle

With 2:41 seconds remaining in the first half of last night’s class 3A football semifinal, Pella led Harlan 35-0. When the clock finally hit triple zeros, the Little Dutch held on dearly for a 41-39 victory in a game heard live on 92.1 KRLS.

Sam Warner and Lucas Warner each had two first half touchdowns, and Reece Schnell added a 51-yard run as Pella built its lead. But Little Dutch coach Jay McKinstrey said that a late first half score by the Cyclones changed the tide.

“We talked with two minutes left in the first half, we’ve got to keep their score to zero, because we get to halftime and we get the ball to start the half and the clock is running. But they got the ball in the end zone to make it 35-7 and it gave them some life. They made some great plays in the second half too, we just couldn’t get them off the field on third and fourth down. We had the kid wrapped up on the hook and ladder and he was still able to pitch it out there, what a great play. The heart was pounding pretty good for the whole game, but it was great to see the kids keep playing play after play after play and really show some grit tonight.”

Harlan eventually cut the lead to 35-26 after a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown, but the Little Dutch finally had a second half answer on their next offensive play – a 53-yard bomb from Ryan Gustafson to Avery Van Zee.

“Gus just told me before he snapped the ball, he said ‘Avery just run down the field as fast as you can and I’ll hit you.’ That was my only goal was to run down there and beat the guy that was guarding me and Gus threw a perfect ball right in my hands, and we made the play.”

Harlan wasn’t done yet, however, as Brett Sears hauled in his fourth and fifth touchdown receptions of the night to cut Pella’s lead to 41-39. The Cyclones botched the snap on the two point try to tie, and Van Zee smothered an onside kick.

The Little Dutch limited Harlan’s Nick Foss to just 77 yards rushing on 21 carries, but Cyclone quarterback Daren Schmitz was 25-of-49 passing for 357 yards and five touchdowns.

Gustafson was 10-of-17 passing for 180 yards and three TDs for Pella, while Schnell led the ground game with 83 yards on nine carries.

Pella improves to 11-1 on the season, and will play for its fourth straight class 3A championship next Thursday night.