By no means a conventional game, 10-seed Dallas Center-Grimes’ win Friday, Nov. 1 sends the Mustangs to the next round of the Class 3A playoffs all the same. DC-G took down the visiting 8-seed Harlan Cyclones in a 9-7 decision that relied on some unconventional circumstances as the team struggled to find the same momentum that helped them coast through the season.

After the game, DC-G head coach Scott Heitland reminded his team that no matter how the score came about, a win counts no matter what.

“When the clock goes to four zeroes and we have more points than their team, that’s all that matters,” Heitland said.

With an 8-1 record heading into Friday, the Mustangs have made it a routine to have more points. They’ve scored at least three times in six of their games this season. So when the team punted on the first two drives, DC-G was in rare territory.

Thanks to a booming kick to the two-yard line, the Mustangs still seemed primed to get the ball back with good field position until Harlan’s Johnathan Morrison darted for a 69 yard gain to the left.

“We had a player out of position that didn’t do his job,” Heitland said of the momentum-swinger. “You know what, that’s on us as coaches to make sure that he’s where he needs to be.”

Harlan scored the next play to take a 7-0 lead.

Trying to get back into the game, DC-G quarterback Ty Walker had two incompletions that led to yet another punt. All that was remedied when Dawson Lego jumped in for an interception, placing DC-G in scoring range until the very next play when Harlan intercepted it right as Walker looked to put his team on the board.

“It was just a little under thrown,” Heitland said. “We thought we’d put a ball in the end zone right away. It was the right read. It was the right guy to throw to, just a little bit off and he walked off right away and goes ‘I gotta lead him.’”

The DC-G defense was sure to keep a tighter hold on the Harlan offense from that point as Harlan was stopped in its tracks the last five drives of the game.

“I think our defense is very disciplined,” Heitland added. “On nights where we’re struggling a bit and the other team’s playing defensively, if we can rely on our defense to help out, we’ll do it every time.”

With the damage limited to a 7-0 deficit at halftime, DC-G was just a broken play away from getting back in the game just as Harlan did against a handicapped defense in the first quarter.

That came in the form of special teams for the Mustangs. Not once, but twice.

After DC-G trapped the Cyclones on a three-and-out, a muffed snap to the punter put the Mustangs in prime position to get on the board. Walker found tight end Nathan Behanish to even out the score.

The game still needed one more gaffe for the game to claim a victor. That once again came on a Harlan snap.

DC-G forced another three-and-out to take advantage of a well-pinned punt in Harlan territory. With Harlan’s punter in the end zone, the ball went past his head and out the back of the end zone for a safety. Advantage DC-G 9-7.

Heitland said he believes this is the first time he’s coached a game that was decided by a safety as the last play. That was made possible partly thanks to Lego grabbing his second interception, stopping Harlan from making another big drive to save their season in the closing minutes.

That’s all she wrote. While the seven points scored by the offense are the fewest since September for DC-G, it’s the fifth time the defense has held its opponent to only one score. A score from the offense and an crucial error were enough in the end.

DC-G next travels Friday, Nov. 8 to No. 3 seed Lewis Central which took down Oskaloosa 44-0.