The East Mills football team rallied back from 17-0 in the final eight minutes of the game to post a 32-17 victory over Coon Rapids-Bayard in the opening round of the Eight-Man playoffs on Wednesday.
“I don't even know what or how...it was just pretty amazing,” said East Mills coach Andy Irwin of his team's comeback. The 17 point deficit is the largest comeback the coach can recall in his four years as the Wolverines' coach.
“At halftime we said if we're going to lose this game, we want to make sure we go down with a fight because we didn't feel like we played as good as we could in the first half,” said Irwin. “I don't know if the kids were nervous playing in the game or the weather or what it was, but we just didn't feel like we were playing as well as we could.
“So at halftime, it was more about if we were going to go down in the first round of the playoffs, we were going to go out playing better than this.”
Irwin said his team changed up a few things and tweaked a few others but credits most of the comeback to his team simply playing better in the second half.
Four minutes into the fourth quarter and the Wolverines, averaging better than 41 points per game were in danger of being shutout. But three touchdown tosses and a touchdown scamper by quarterback Luke Schafer later and the Wolverines were comfortably ahead and looking to Monday's quarterfinal showdown with Fremont-Mills.
The Wolverines held the usually potent Coon Rapids attack , led by quarterback Michael Schwenk and his Iowa Eight-Man all-time best 103 career touchdown passes, to just one offensive touchdown and 245 total yards, more than 150 yards below its season average. Irwin credits his team's success to two factors: this was the third year in a row they've played the Crusaders and the faith his team could handle man-to-man coverage.
“A lot of the kids we had last year on defense played this year and a lot of them that didn't play last year ran their plays on scout team so we kind of felt like we had a little bit of an advantage because we've seen their offense a lot,” said Irwin. “And then we just felt like we matched up pretty well with our athletes on their athletes. A lot of it was the win but I think our kids did a good job of coverage.
“A lot of teams will play zone against them and we just decided to just man up and I thought for the most part, we did a good job of man coverage.”
Schafer finished 170 yards passing and added 69 yards rushing on 24 carries. Most of Schafer's running was by design, said Irwin.
“They had a pretty aggressive defensive line so when they started getting up field, we had some designed runs to get their rush backed off,” said Irwin.
Schafer hooked up with two of his scoring tosses to Kaleb Richter, who also added 61 yards on the ground.
In addition to catching four passes for 44 yards and a score, Daniel Duysen wrapped up 17 tackles and recovered a fumble.