When Mid-Prairie senior running back Tyler Helmuth bulled his way into the end zone less than one minute into the second quarter of last Friday night’s Class 2A playoff game, the Golden Hawks …
When Mid-Prairie senior running back Tyler Helmuth bulled his way into the end zone less than one minute into the second quarter of last Friday night’s Class 2A playoff game, the Golden Hawks truly felt golden.
Helmuth celebrated with his teammates.
A loud roar of approval rolled down the home-side bleachers.
Helmuth’s score finished off Mid-Prairie’s third consecutive scoring drive, giving the Golden Hawks a commanding 21-0 lead.
It wouldn’t turn out that easy. Not in a playoff game.
The Golden Hawks didn’t secure a spot in the second round of the playoffs, and a 35-28 win over Northeast, until Mid-Prairie sophomore Tucker Miller recovered an attempted onside kick with 3.2 seconds left.
“Survive and advance, that’s what they say. So we’ll take it,” said Golden Hawks head coach Pete Cavanagh.
The Golden Hawks celebrated reaching the round of 16 with a cheer in the postgame huddle. And among those joining in the Hawks huddle for the first time since early September was Cain Brown, a junior who broke his fibula in the second game of the season and returned Friday with two interceptions on defense.
“I wasn’t even supposed to play,” Brown said. “Kind of worked my way into the doctor’s [office], told him it felt good, and here I am.”
Mid-Prairie (6-3) will play West Marshall (8-1) on Friday night in State Center. The Trojans, who are ranked No. 1 by the Des Moines Register, defeated Centerville 42-0 in their playoff opener. The Golden Hawks defeated Centerville 42-21 in a district game played in early October.
The victory over Northeast was the third in a row for Mid-Prairie and its fifth in six games.
“It’s a tribute to these guys. The character of them and the spirit of them. They’ve been great all year,” Cavanagh said. “There’s been no negativity. Even when we weren’t perfect tonight, we’d just right the ship and just play hard.”
And for the sixth consecutive game, the Golden Hawks hit the gas pedal early. Senior quarterback Will Cavanagh finished off the Golden Hawks’ opening scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown on a QB keeper behind his booming offensive line. Junior running back Brandon Hartley scored from 2 yards out on the Golden Hawks’ next possession.
A 4-yard touchdown pass from Will Cavanagh to Jack Pennington in the second quarter put the Golden Hawks up, 28-7.
“We have played well in the first quarter, the first half,” Pete Cavanagh said. “That’s kind of been our mantra a little bit. Just kind of jump on them early.”
Helmuth and Hartley each topped 100 rushing yards, Helmuth for a game-high 116 yards on 28 carries and Hartley for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. Will Cavanagh passed for 42 yards and a touchdown, was not intercepted and sacked just once. When he needed a yard or two, Cavanagh lowered his head and followed a line that has grown stronger with each game.
“Considering the guys we have up front, just like our size, we’re not very big. We’re young. We’re inexperienced,” Pete Cavanagh said. “It’s a credit to our coaching staff and those guys up front just really working hard. Our tight ends and our fullback really blocked well, Braden Hartley and Grady Gingerich and Shawn Dodds did a heck of a job for Tyler [Helmuth] and Will [Cavanagh].”
But despite all that offense, Northeast freshman quarterback Gavin Kramer made life difficult for the Golden Hawks. He completed 11-of-25 passes for 167 yards and 4 touchdowns.
“They’re a good passing team, we knew that,” Brown said. “We knew we had to stay deep.”
Kramer’s final two scoring passes to Hayden Lee and Jimmy Weisphenning in the fourth quarter trimmed a 21-point Mid-Prairie lead to just 7 in the final seconds.
“He’s slippery. He’s a young guy, he’s tough to handle. It’s tough to defend that,” Pete Cavanagh said. “Four weeks in a row, we’ve played really good quarterbacks. It’s never going to be easy now.”
Brown intercepted the only pass attempted by Northeast running back Caleb Gruhn on a halfback option, and then intercepted a pass thrown by Kramer in the third quarter.
“You can see the difference he makes,” Pete Cavanagh said of Brown. “We didn’t know if he was going to come back. And now we have him. It just makes us deeper, and adds to both sides of the ball. That’s awesome.”
After Weisphenning caught his third touchdown pass of the night with 8.5 seconds left, Miller ended the anxiety for the Golden Hawks by catching an onside kick in the air and returning it downfield to cut the clock to 3.2 seconds.
“It was a struggle,” Pete Cavanagh said. “It was every inch tonight we had to struggle for. They’re a good team and we’re just fortunate to get out of there.”
Northeast 0 14 0 14 -- 28
Mid-Prairie 14 14 7 0 -- 35
MP: Will Cavanagh 1 run (Collin Miller kick)
MP: Braden Hartley 2 run (Miller kick)
MP: Tyler Helmuth 3 run (Miller kick)
N: Jimmy Weisphenning 5 pass from Gavin Kramer (Camilo Blanco kick)
MP: Jack Pennington 4 pass from Cavanagh (Miller kick)
N: Weisphenning 4 pass from Kramer (Blanco kick)
MP: Hartley 3 run (Miller kick)
N: Hayden Lee 30 pass from Kramer (Blanco kick)
N: Weisphenning 2 pass from Kramer (Blanco kick)
MID-PRAIRIE PASSING: Cavanagh, 5-of-11, 42 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
RUSHING: Helmuth, 28-116, 1 TD; Hartley, 19-109, 2 TDs; Cavanagh, 11-11, 1 TD; Collin Miller, 1-7.
RECEIVING: Grady Gingerich, 2-36; Pennington, 2-6, 1 TD; Helmuth, 1-0.
LEADING TACKLERS: Hartley, 8.5; Cain Brown, 2.5, 2 INT; Helmuth, 2.5; Terry Bordenave, 2.5; Collin Miller, 2; Jarrett Hoffman, 2; Gingerich, 2; Justice Jones, 2; Parker Ehrenfelt, 2.
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