WAUKON, Iowa — For one half of football, it looked like the West Liberty Comets had the Waukon Indians right where they wanted them.
Then it fell apart for the Comets.
The Indians forced five second-half turnovers — four interceptions and one fumble recovery — which was more than West Liberty could overcome.
In a game in which the final score isn’t indicative of how close the contest was, Waukon will move on to play at the UNI-Dome after beating West Liberty 32-12 in the Class 2A quarterfinal round Friday night in Waukon.
Though the icy-cold conditions may have suggested this one would follow a similar path as last week’s game against Monticello when West Liberty won a slow-paced slugfest, this week both teams got big plays from key players. Waukon just got more of them.
“It’s just one of those things,” said West Liberty head coach Jason Iske. “A couple passes that (Waukon) made we had guys right there, but (the Indians) had a couple of those opportunities that they got.”
West Liberty started the game with a cerebral 11-play opening drive. But the Comet drive stalled after crossing midfield.
The Indians took advantage of the early stop by marching down and producing the game’s first score, a 25-yard run by Dawson Bauers. A failed conversion meant a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
After the Waukon score, Jahsaiah Galvan took the kickoff back to midfield, and two plays later Gavin Chown found the end zone on a 31-yard jet sweep that went virtually untouched by the opposition.
After the Chown score, the West Liberty (7-4) pushed the chips to the center of the table by trying an onside kick, which the Comets recovered.
On the first play after retaining possession, Will Esmoil took a handoff 50 yards for the second West Liberty score in 13 seconds and put the Comets out in front, 12-6.
Despite a late fumble, Esmoil had a strong showing. The Comet running back finished with 169 yards on 22 carries.
But three third-quarter turnovers allowed the Indians (11-0) to add a Lincoln Snitker 49-yard touchdown run to put Waukon up six.
Waukon held possession for much of the second half, which was aided by receiving the halftime kick and the West Liberty turnovers, but Bauers kept getting better as the game grew later. The Indian running back finished with 107 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns.
Snitker added a 12-yard touchdown late to ice it. He finished with 84 yards on the ground.
“(Waukon) is the No. 1 team in the state (in Class 2A),” Iske said. “We gave them everything they could handle for 3 1/2 quarters of a ballgame. … Our kids played hard, fought hard. We might not have come out ahead, but we definitely gave championship effort.”