Dallas Center-Grimes locked up its first outright district title since 1999 with a 20-2 victory over Boone on Oct. 25.
"I think everybody has a hunch, or a gut feeling about where you might fall into place," coach Scott Heitland said of the team’s expectations in the preseason. "We’ve exceeded those expectations. We felt really confident we’d be in the playoffs, and battle for a district title, but to do it the way we’ve done it is a nice surprise."
The Mustang defense stood tall once again, keeping its opponent out of the end zone for the sixth time this season. Boone entered the game as the top rushing team in Class 3A, averaging 371 yards per game, but managed just 164.
"I think it gives the kids confidence that we can step on the field and play against anybody when we play defense like that," Heitland said.
DC-G struck the first blow in the first quarter. After the defense recovered a fumble in Boone territory, quarterback Andrew Kramer ran it in from 24 yards out to stake the Mustangs to an early lead.
"That was one of our read plays," Kramer said. "I saw the hole, cut up and broke away and it worked out for us."
The Mustangs held a 6-2 advantage at halftime, despite running just 13 offensive plays to Boone’s 44.
"The approach on offense was to get first downs and keep their offense off the field, and it couldn’t have been anymore opposite," Heitland said. "I just kept asking myself, how much longer can the defense do it?
"I guess I got my answer. They can do it a lot longer than even I thought they could."
Boone quarterback Alex Davis, who averaged 136 rushing yards per game, was limited to just 72.
Kramer broke loose for a 44-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and capped the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Austin Winter with 2:12 left in the fourth.
Kramer completed 7-of-9 passes for 90 yards, and added another 64 on the ground. Keaton Means caught three passes for 31 yards, and Dane Hansen had two catches for 37 yards.
Tyler Johansen and Austin Kloewer each had 12 tackles to pace the Mustangs defense, which hasn’t allowed a touchdown since Sept. 20. Jack Jorgensen collected nine tackles, Carson Namanny had eight, and Brevin Townsell, Jack Kelly and Justin Gardner each had seven.
"Four straight shutouts before this," Kramer said of the defense. "They have fought really hard for us, and have given us great field position. It’s unbelievable."
The playoff run for DC-G (8-1) will be anything but easy. The Mustangs were open the playoffs on Wednesday at home against Humboldt (6-3). Humboldt’s fourth seed is misleading, with losses to playoff qualifiers Clear Lake, Waverly-Shell Rock and Webster City, teams with a combined record of 23-4.
The winner will face a second-round matchup against either Webster City (8-1) or Grinnell (6-3) on Nov. 4.
"Playing at home, I think, is a huge advantage," Kramer said. "It builds a lot of confidence in our team, and knowing that we don’t have to travel and we can play in front of our home fans, it’s a wonderful opportunity."
DC-G senior Will Ollendick joined the Mustangs at midfield for the coin toss before the game.
The team’s seniors rallied around Ollendick, a special-needs student, and suggested to the coaching staff that he be named an honorary co-captain for the regular season finale on Senior Night.
"They knew how much he enjoys sporting events and they thought this would be a great experience for him," Heitland said. "I’m really impressed with our kids, that they though of including him on senior night.
"He road out in his chair to midfield and got a chance to be there for the coin toss. It was pretty cool."