Redhawks grind out district win against GMG

TRAER – When the defense does the absolute best it can, not allowing the opposition to find its way onto the scoreboard, the offense’s job is made easy. The offense just has to find its way to score one time.

That’s exactly what happened Friday night. The North Tama football team found its way into the end zone 34 seconds before halftime. That was the difference, as the Redhawks came away with the grinding 7-0 win against GMG in Class A District 5 action.

“Coach (Tom) McDermott talks about every single day after practice when we break it down, the last words out of his mouth are ‘Defense wins games, offense by how much,'” said North Tama coach Austin Pink. “The offense got it done just by the nick of our hair tonight. The defense, we were prepared all week, and did what we needed to do.”

Cael Kopriva, the North Tama (4-4, 3-3) quarterback, found paydirt on a 10-yard touchdown run on a drive that saw the Redhawks march 62 yards in 2 minutes, 49 seconds as the first half drew to a close. The game started with GMG (3-5, 1-5) fumbling the ball over to North Tama after nearing the Redhawk red zone. The Redhawks did the same thing on their opening drive. After moving close to midfield, North Tama coughed up the football that was recovered by GMG’s Matt Lolwing.

Following the exchange of turnovers, neither offense could get the defense to bend nor break. The two teams traded punts for the next seven possessions before Kopriva was able to break the scoreless tie. Coming out of halftime, the first four possessions of the second half were punts, as the Redhawks and Wolverines combined to punt 12 times in the game.

GMG gained just three first downs in the first half, two of which came on the first drive before the fumble. The Wolverines got the ball following a Redhawk turnover on downs with 8:32 to play in the fourth quarter at their own 21-yard line. GMG was able to put a drive together, moving down the field, picking up five first downs on the way. With 1:43 to play, GMG faced a fourth-and-2 on the Redhawk 17. A false start moved the down to a fourth-and-7 before Wolverine quarterback Garret Groth was stopped before getting a pass off to turn the ball over.

“They’re going to be sore. They’re going to be disappointed,” said GMG coach Mike Spurlin. “They’re going to be everything you can say about a game like this, because they did put their hearts into it. So, it’s going to take a couple days. They’ll shrug it off, and come back strong next week.”

GMG forced a punt after using its timeouts to get the ball back, but had 58 seconds to go 75 yards. Four straight incompletions halted any GMG comeback. The Redhawks mustered 182 yards of total offense, while GMG put up 132. Tyler Morrison led North Tama in rushing with 91 yards on 18 carries. Kopriva finished with 53 yards on the ground and the score.

After combining to win just one game last season, GMG defeated North Tama 22-16 on Sept. 4, 2015, both teams have seen vast improvement in 2016. While they won’t make the playoffs, the Redhawks have a chance to close out the year with a winning record after failing to win a game a season ago. North Tama travels to BGM (4-4, 3-3) in the season finale.

“We talk about six plays determine a game,” Pink said. “We never know when those six plays are about to happen. You have to give your all every single play, because one of those plays is going to be that sixth play. We can look back at the film after tonight and see those six plays, and say this is one of the plays that mattered. The kids, they buy into that. So they know they have to give 100 percent because it could be any one of those plays.”

GMG with a win in Week 9 would see a three-win improvement over 2015. The Wolverines will look to do that when they host Grand View Christian (0-8, 0-6).

“It’ll be good for us because we have a lot of young kids, and a lot of talent coming up,” Spurlin said. “We hope we can get them to see that we’re trying to change things around, and get headed in the right direction.”