ESTHERVILLE, Iowa - Playing under the Friday night lights for the first time as North Union, the visiting Warriors delivered a 20-13 Iowa prep victory over the Estherville-Lincoln Central Midgets during season-opening action in Estherville, Iowa.
Both teams scored during the final minutes of the non-district game. North Union built a two-score lead with 1:38 left in the game when Cody Runksmeier ran a sweep to the right side for a 21-yard touchdown, making it 20-7.
The Midgets scored just 31 seconds later on a 68-yard completion from Evan Hansen to Matt Burrell with 1:07 left, making it a one-score game at 20-13.
SHOULDER STOP — North Union cornerback Jacob Adams lowers his shoulder to top Estherville-Lincoln Central running back Andreas Blanco during season-opening prep football action Friday night in Estherville, Iowa. North Union’s Cody Runksmeier (25) converges on the play. Photo by David Schwartz/Estherville Daily News
The Warriors covered the onside kick at the 50-yard line to gain the final possession and ice the win.
"It wasn't pretty, but it is a 'W,'" said North Union co-head coach Tommy Elliott.
North Union junior Marshall Klingenberg scored the first touchdown of the season when he intercepted Hansen's pass at the line of scrimmage and scampered 20 yards to put the Warriors up 6-0 with 2:39 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors worked the clock in the first half, keeping the Midgets' defense off the field. A long North Union drive at the end of the first quarter was electrified by an 18-yard pass from Jacob Braddock to Garrett Johnson to put the Warrior offense on the 24. Jake Adams rattled off a six-yard run to put North Union on the 17, before Braddock ran twice to gain the 14. Adams would punch in the second score of the game from there, giving North Union a 13-0 lead with 10:46 remaining in the half.
"Offensively, it was hard to find a rhythm out there tonight. I give the guys credit - they kept plugging away and didn't give up, but it was hard work," said Elliott.
Defensively, the Warriors contained the Midgets' option offense in the first half. With ELC driving in the second quarter, linebacker Ty Anderson recovered a fumble to stall the Midgets' momentum.
On the ensuing drive, Braddock returned the favor, throwing an interception to ELC's Derek Nieland.
The Midgets were able to get on the board during the following possession when Hansen delivered an option pitch to running back Andreas Blanco, who scored from the 29-yard line to make it 13-7.
ELC's offense was propelled by Blanco's feet as he rushed 14 times for a game-leading 131 yards.
"In the first half, we did a lot of blitzing down the middle and they got some chances to run outside on us," said Warrior co-head coach Troy Adams. "They had some size on us and it showed. In the second half we came off the outside more and forced them to throw more."
North Union had a chance in the third quarter to extend its lead when Anderson blocked a Midget punt, putting the Warriors on the 25 and looking to score.
A solid defensive effort by ELC stuffed Klingenberg on third down with two yards to go to stall out the next drive.
The Midgets' offense got some momentum nearing the end of the third quarter. Back-to-back runs by Blanco for 24 and 18 yards, respectively, moved ELC into Warrior territory.
The Warriors stepped up and stopped the Midgets on second and eight, with Clyve Jensen and Cody Bradley combining to sack Hansen on a crucial third-down play to stall out the ELC drive.
Jacob Adams carried the ball 11 times for 53 yards, while Klingenberg carried 12 times for 67 yards to lead North Union's offense.
Hansen was 9-for-18 passing with 118 yards and two interceptions for ELC.
North Union (1-0) hosts Bishop Garrigan at 7 p.m. next Friday night in Armstrong.
NU 7 6 0 7 - 20
ELC 0 7 0 6 - 13