Muscatine struggled to tackle Sam Strang all night. That came back to bite the Muskies on Strang’s final run of Friday’s game in Muscatine.
Strang, a senior, punched in a one-yard touchdown to give Davenport Central the lead with 37.5 seconds remaining, and the Blue Devils went on to hand the Muskies a 28-25 defeat to open the season.
Strang punished the Muskies for 155 rushing yards on 24 carries, and he punched in a pair of one-yard rushing touchdowns.
“He’s a hammer,” Muscatine coach Jake Mueller said of Strang. “He’s a big, physical and tough dude and he runs hard. We had a tough time bringing him down.”
Still, the Muskies (0-1) had chances to put the game out of reach. Leading 25-20, junior running back Tim Nimely was having his way with a seemingly gassed Davenport Central defense and Muscatine found itself inside the Central 10 with less than nine minutes remaining.
However, a false start and a fumbled snap derailed the Muskies' drive and they were held without points.
“There’s probably 15 plays you can look back on and say if we make them, we win,” Mueller said. “I feel like we got complacent and relaxed. We didn’t stay focused and finish the drive.”
However, despite earning a chance to put the game away in the fourth quarter, Muscatine trailed for a majority of the game. The Muskies surrendered 172 rushing yards to the Blue Devils (1-0) in the opening half and faced a 20-7 halftime deficit.
The Blue Devils flexed their muscle early with a six play, 64 yard drive that ended in a five-yard touchdown run by Jadon Leach. Every yard on the drive came on a running play, and Davenport Central averaged 12.8 yards per rush on the drive.
The Muskies responded with a touchdown drive of their own, starting with a 31-yard run by senior Takpor Tiah and capped off with a five-yard touchdown pass from Sam Wieskamp to Eli Gaye.
On Central’s second drive, the Blue Devils again marched down the field on the strength of their two-headed rushing attack. Sam Strang sparked the drive with a 20-yard run, and Leach capped it off with a 15-yard rushing touchdown to give the Blue Devils a 14-7 lead.
Late in the second quarter, Central turned a Muscatine fumble into a one-yard touchdown run by Strang for a 20-7 lead.
Then, the Muskies found life with 4:13 remaining in the third quarter.
Jorge Ocampo intercepted an errant pass from Davenport Central quarterback Mike Moran and was grabbed by a Central defender. While he was still standing, Ocampo lateraled the ball backwards to Takpor Tiah, who sprinted 70 yards for a game-changing touchdown.
It was one of three touchdowns scored in the final five minutes of the third quarter for Muscatine.
Muscatine forced a Central three-and-out, and moments later, quarterback Sam Wieskamp connected with Zach Hardy on a 56-yard touchdown pass. Wieskamp got the start at quarterback and played all but one series. The senior went 9-for-19 for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
After Prince Wei recovered a fumble by Strang, Nimely dashed for a 29-yard touchdown on the next play to give the Muskies a 25-20 lead. The junior finished with 22 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown.
However, it wasn’t enough, as it was Strang and Central that had the last laugh with the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute.
“I was worried we had some growing up to do, and I wish we wouldn’t need something like this to wake us up,” Mueller said. “That’s all we can do now is use this as a wakeup call. We got a chance to be pretty good, there’s a lot of positive things that we did.
“We just have to put it together.”
Davenport Central 28, Muscatine 25
DC – Jadon Leach 5 run (Nate Hummel kick), 8:42.
Mus – Eli Gaye 5 pass from Sam Wieskamp (Christian Aguirre kick), 5:28
DC – Jadon Leach 15 run (Hummel kick), 3:16
DC – Sam Strang 1 run (Kick blocked), 3:30
Mus – Takpor TIah 70 interception return (Aguirre kick no good), 4:13
Mus – Zach Hardy 56 pass from Wieskamp (Aguirre kick no good), 2:08
Mus – Tim Nimely 29 run (Conversion failed), 1:42.
DC – Strang 1 run (Run successful), 37.5
Muscatine – Tim Nimely 23-127, Takpor Tiah 1-31, Mentor Cooper 1-11, Sam Wieskamp 5-(-6).
Central – Sam Strang 24-155, Jadon Leach 21-97, Mike Moran 7-27.
Muscatine – Wieskamp 9-19-0, 144 yards
Central – Moran 8-18-2, 77 yards
Muscatine – Zach Hardy 3-82, Eli Gaye 5-40, Jake Draves 1-30, Tim Nimely 1-2
Central – Israel Taylor 5-51, Kevin Jones 2-17, Tim Johnson 1-9
Sophomores: Central 21, Muscatine 12