TRAER – With plenty of doubters, Central Decatur made it quite a ballgame Friday night.
The Cardinals, ranked 30th in RPI, but Class A District 8 champions, were part of the debate as to if the Iowa high school playoff football system should be revised. Sticking it to the naysyers, the Cardinals made noise in the playoffs and showed they belong.
A hard fight against a No. 4 ranked North Tama team saw the Cards behind 8-0 entering halftime, but were unable to pull the score back in a season-ending 16-6 loss.
After getting stunned in a season-opening 32-24 loss to a Nodaway Valley team that was winless in 2018, the Cardinals were slow to find their footing.
The Cards went, 1-4 in non-district play with two loses coming against Mount Ayr and Panorama, both of whom were playoff qualifiers. Central Decatur head coach Jon Pedersen believes the losses the team took did not accurately show how good the Cardinals were to others.
“Anybody that said we didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs needed to be here (Friday) to watch this game to figure out that we do deserve it,” said head coach Jon Pedersen. “We played poorly in the first game and hats off to Nodaway Valley, they did what they needed to do, I’ll put our non-district schedule against any (Class) A school in the state of Iowa. To say we weren’t playing well in the beginning of the year isn’t true.”
“It fueled us, but we also knew that wasn’t true,” said Central Decatur player Cole Pedersen. “We knew we were a lot better than what they had said and we were just going out there playing our hardest. That’s all we could do.”
The Cardinals rebounded after non-district play concluded, picking up a 50-12 win over North Mahaska to close out September. The Cardinals then won their next three, winning out the district and clinching a playoff berth with a 24-8 win over Wayne to end the regular season.
“That was a turning point for us, our kids really bought into the rest of the year and what was going on and we went through district play to earn our way into the playoffs. We played a very good team, a hard fought game and hats off to them (North Tama), they did what they needed to do to win,” said Jon Pedersen.
Keeping it close
At any given moment in the game, the Cardinals were never exactly out of it.
Despite an early first strike from the RedHawks by way of a Skyler Staker score, and a Noah Weber 2-point conversion, all the Cardinals needed was one big play to suck the wind of of the sails of a North Tama offense that was doing exactly it needed to do in winning the game within the trenches.
The Cardinals were unable to get a big play however as North Tama’s defense held strong against the goal line against a quick CD team.
Entering halftime the score remained 8-0. Twice through the first half the Cards had an opportunity to punch the ball across the goal line from inside the 5-yard line, but were stopped behind the line.
The window of opportunity for CD started to close when North Tama tacked on another with 7:02 remaining in the third quarter, getting the conversion again to go ahead 16-0.
CD capped off its lone scoring drive to start the fourth quarter. After driving as time expired in the third, the Cards flipped the field and punched it across the goal line to start the fourth on a run from Cole Pedersen. The two point conversion attempt failed, keeping the difference at 12.
Cole Pedersen ended the game with 104 rushing yards on 28 attempts. He also completed six passed for 72 yards with an interception.
A late drive as time dwindled on the clock and on Central Decatur’s season off a fumble recovery ended in an interception as the RedHawks closed CD’s season in victory formation for the win.
Entering Friday there was no fear in the Cardinals, who were going up against the undefeated RedHawks.
“Our kids weren’t scared,” said Jon Pedersen. “Our kids thought we were going to win. Plain and simple. We saw it on film, we had an opportunity to win this game and it doesn’t matter what anybody else in the world thinks. When we’re watching film and we’re together and we’ve got 32 people strong, we felt like we were going to win this game. There were times we played well enough to do that and other times we didn’t. We weren’t scared of this team in any way shape or form.”
Matthew Boothe had two catches for 28 yards and Champ Walker had one catch for 37 yards.
On defense the Cardinals were led by Cole Pederseon’s nine tackled and Tate Hill’s eight tackles. Devin Adams had a solo sack with two tackles for a loss.
Brogan Bundt had a fumble recovery also.
After rain had subsided prior to kick off, a wet and slick grass field turned into a muddy mess with players struggling to gain traction. Pederson feels the conditions played into how the team performed Friday.
“This was a game of a really powerful team and a really fast team. If you’re going to negate the fast team you’re going to want a sloppy track. I thought our kids did really well with that disadvantage. You put us on a dry field, we don’t know what the situation is, but we would have been able to do a few more things and my hats are off to them and I’m very proud of our kids,” said Jon Pedersen.
At the end of the game it was an emotional sight as a family of football players bid farewell to their several grid iron brothers.
Michel Evertsen, Cole Pedersen, Anthony Marks, Kolby Hewlett, Dakota Reed, Brett Powers, Brogan Bundt, Tate Hill and Grant Smith all played their final games for Central Decatur football Friday. Cole Pedersen was emotional in expressing what the group has meant to him.
“They mean a lot,” said Cole Pedersen. “I’ve been around them my whole life and I love every single one of those guys. They mean the world to me and I wouldn’t want to play by anybody else.”
“This is my youngest son’s classmates,” said Jon Pedersen in reference to Cole. “Obviously there’s a huge bond there and they’re great kids. They’re great kids on the field, they’re great kids in the class room and they’re great kids in the community. I couldn’t be prouder of our seniors. I’m proud of all of our kids in our program.”
North Tama will move on to face No. 6 Woodbury Central (9-1) in the Class A Bracket C final. The match will be played in Traer Friday night with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
CD closes its season at 5-5 after winning Class A District 8 with a 4-0 in-district record.