West Branch senior Luke LenochYour Prep Sports
Locked in a tie game with its playoff life on the line West Branch found itself in crunch time in the second half on Friday night.
Crunch time was Luke Lenoch time for West Branch.
Lenoch ran for three second-half touchdowns as West Branch scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to down North Cedar 35-14 in a Class 1A, District 3 game at the Little Rose Bowl in West Branch.
Lenoch finished with 226 yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries as West Branch improved to 5-2 on the season and 4-1 in District 3 play.
“He has so much durability that he never really gets tired,” West Branch coach Butch Pedersen said of Lenoch. “Then when the opponents get a little tired he is still running fresh so I think he gets better as the game goes on.”
The win was the second straight for West Branch which pulled even with Clayton Ridge in the District 3 standings at 4-1.
Despite a long list of injuries this season, West Branch can clinch a playoff spot with back-to-back wins over Tipton and Clayton Ridge to close out the season.
“The way the season has gone we have to be real pleased to be in this position at 5-2,” Pedersen said. “We control our own destiny so we will see what happens with it.”
West Branch kept its playoff fate in its own hands with a strong second half on Friday.
Lenoch scored on second-half touchdown runs of 13, 2 and 6 yards as West Branch scored on its first three possessions after halftime.
North Cedar got a pair of big plays in the first half to head to the locker room tied 14-14.
The Knights returned a tipped pass 85 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 73-yard pass play in the first half.
West Branch took the second half kickoff and immediately seized control of the game, marching 67 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown.
Lenoch capped the drive with a 13-yard scamper.
Following a North Cedar punt, West Branch put together an 11-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard Lenoch touchdown run.
Lenoch capped the scoring when he scored on a 6-yard touchdown run to end a 5-play, 52-yard drive that made the score 35-14.
“I thought we controlled the ball better in the second half and we blocked better than we did the first half,” Pedersen said. “We made a lot of mental mistakes the whole game and we have to clean that up if we are going to do anything the next two weeks but we played a lot better in the second half than we did in the first half.”
West Branch held North Cedar to 180 yards of total offense and just six yards on the ground on Friday.
The Knights managed just 47 yards in the second half.
Jacob Graves led the way defensively for West Branch with seven tackles and also picked off two passes.
Tanner Lukavsky added an interception for West Branch.
“The defense played well all night,” Pedersen said. “We gave up one touchdown on a bomb but besides that they didn’t score, we have some things to work on this week but we will continue get better.”
In his second career start at quarterback Cooper Kabela went 5-of-16 passing for 29 yards and also ran for 32 yards.
Cale Donovan added 56 yards rushing and a touchdown as West Branch rolled up 313 yards on the ground.
West Branch North Cedar
First downs 21 9
Rushes-yards 57-313 15-6
Passing yards 29 174
Total yards 342 180
Comp-Att-Int 5-16-2 16-30-3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-Yards 6-40 6-43
West Branch 0 14 7 14 – 35
North Cedar 7 7 0 0 – 14
NC – Greg Hansen 85 interception return (Jacob Jensen kick)
WB – Luke Lenoch 3 run (Javier Zamudio kick)
WB – Cale Donovan 2 run (Zamudio kick)
NC – Hansen 75 pass from Carter Johnson (Jensen kick)
WB – Lenoch 13 run (Zamudio kick)
WB – Lenoch 2 run (Kick failed)
WB – Lenoch 6 run (Donovan run)
Rushing – WB: Luke Lenoch 42-226, Cooper Kabela 6-32, Cale Donovan 8-56.
Passing – WB: Cooper Kabela 5-16-2 29.
Receiving – WB: Tanner Lukavsky 2-13, Ben Thompson 1-11, Luke Lenoch 1-3, Brett Schiele 1-2.