By Susan Harman
Your Prep Sports
TIPTON – When Tipton turned an interception deep in its own territory into a one-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to take a 14-7 lead in the third quarter it seemed that any momentum West Branch had established coming out of halftime had been terminally deflated.
But the Bears are made of sterner stuff, particularly in the eighth game of this crazy season.
West Branch went on to score three second-half touchdowns, dominate possession and lumbered away with a 28-14 victory over the Tigers.
“A great win,” an elated Bears coach Butch Pedersen said. “They’ve been used to so many things going against them that they’ve become so resilient. They just went out and absolutely destroyed Tipton from then on.”
West Branch senior Luke Lenoch
It was a must-win situation for the Bears (5-1, 6-2), who will play Clayton Ridge (5-1, 6-2) at home next week for the 1A District 3 runner-up spot and a guaranteed playoff berth.
After a 7-7 first half the Bears opened the second by driving from their own 19 to the Tigers’ 25. But an interception by Logan Stolte at the 21 halted the drive.
Daulton Mente took an inside handoff in the Tigers’ version of the single wing, darted through a hole and cut up field 79 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
“You’ve got to suck it up and put that behind you,” Bears running back Luke Lenoch said. “Otherwise it’s just going to be a downfall for the rest of the game.”
“We came out and had a good drive right out of halftime, so we knew we could drive the ball,” Bears quarterback Cooper Kabela said. “We had confidence we could drive; we just had to finish it.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity. Five injuries (to starters), that’s a lot of adversity. We’ve been (behind) before. It’s the next play.”
To make matters worse Lenoch, an all-state running back, was hurt in the second quarter and left the game for a while. He had only 40 yards rushing in the first half.
“It was a moment of ‘Oh no, there goes Luke,’” Kabela said. “It was pretty scary, but knowing Luke we knew that if it wasn’t a torn ACL or something, he’d be back in.”
It wasn’t a knee.
“I messed up my shoulder pretty bad. Adrenaline kicked in, and I don’t really feel it,” Lenoch said after the game. “I’ll probably feel it in the morning pretty good. It’s just a game where we needed to win, and I knew I had to be in there to help my teammates.”
Lenoch finished with 200 yards and three touchdowns.
After Tipton went ahead the Bears defense seemed to figure out the movements and slants in Tipton’s crowded backfield and held the Tigers to just four plays in each of their next four possessions. After those Tiger possessions the Bears regained possession on the 50 and the Tigers’ 32-, 47 and 23-yard lines.
During the meat of the second half the Bears ran 38 plays to 17 for the Tigers.
“At halftime they were playing physical, you’ve got to give it to them,” Lenoch said. “We had to match their intensity. We matched them physically and just kind of took over.”
West Branch tied the game on a 50-yard drive in the third quarter. The Bears overcame a holding penalty, and Kabela converted a fourth-and-10 situation with a 14-yard scramble around left end.
After Tipton fumbled two center snaps on its ensuing possession it ended up punting from its own 10, and West Branch took over at the Tigers’ 32. Lenoch scored the go-ahead TD on a 27-yard run over left tackle.
Tanner Lukavsky, who also caught a touchdown pass in the first half, intercepted a Tiger pass on the next possession to set the Bears up at the Tiger 47.
The Bears drove for the insurance TD, overcoming two holding penalties, by grinding it out with rushes from Lenoch, Kabela and Cale Donovan.
“It was attitude, running to the football,” Pedersen said. “I think we wore them out.”
West Branch Tipton
First downs 18 12
Rushing-yards 47-268 32-142
Comp-att-int 7-13-2 8-18-2
Passing-yards 83 77
Punts-avg. 3-32 5-26.8
Fumbles-lost 0-0 4-0
Penalties-yards 7-65 1-5
West Branch 0 7 7 14 – 28
Tipton 7 0 7 0 – 14
TIP – Dalton Clark 3 run (Zach Ford kick)
WB – Tanner Lukavsky 8 pass from Cooper Kabela (Javier Zamudio kick)
TIP – Daulton Mente 79 run (Ford kick)
WB – Luke Lenoch 6 run (Zamudio kick)
WB – Lenoch 27 run (Zamudio kick)
WB – Lenoch 1 run (Zamudio kick)
Rushing – WB: Luke Lenoch 29-200, Cooper Kabela 9-39, Cale Donovan 4-24, Garrett Tucker 3-5, Brett Schiele 2-0; TIP: Daulton Mente 4-94, Dalton Clark 15-54, Zach Ford 1-1, Quinten Mesick 1-(-3), Ben Emrich 11-(-4).
Passing – WB: Cooper Kabela 7-13-2 83; TIP: Ben Emrich 8-13-2 77.
Receiving – WB: Ben Thompson 2-49, Tanner Lukavsky 2-19, Brett Schiele 2-13, Billy Friis 1-2; TIP: Keith Penningroth 3-27, Zach Ford 2-25, Daulton Mente 2-15, Logan Stolte 1-10.