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The Class A District 7 championship game came down to the final, week 8, match-up between the Mount Ayr Raiders and the Southwest Valley Timberwolves Friday night.
Just two months ago, the Raiders started their first game with a new head coach in Ryan Victor, formerly of Missouri Valley.
In week one, the Raiders fell to Nodaway Valley in the Battle for the Rock which saw the Wolverines win the trophy for the first time ever.
It was after that game that people began to question if this Mount Ayr team would have what it took to go the distance.
The Raiders lost their second game in week three against the number three team in the state at the time, Riverside.
The Raiders spotted the Bulldogs 29 points in the first half before coming out in the second and scoring 20, to fall 29-26.
Fast forward five weeks and the Raiders were in position to take the district title in back-to-back seasons, however, adversity has followed this team throughout the campaign and the Raiders would be without defensive coordinator Daniel Showalter due to COVID.
The teams offensive coordinator, Lucas Smith, stepped in as defensive coordinator and long-time head coach Derek Lambert stepped back onto the field to give the Raiders a helping hand.
The Raiders received the ball to begin the contest but quickly had to punt to the quick Timberwolf offense.
It was a three-and-out for the Timberwolves.
Just over eight minutes had ticked off the clock in the first quarter before the first score. Southwest Valley’s Brendan Knapp, known more for his rushing attack, found an open receiver in the back of the endzone for a 12-yard touchdown strike.
The Raiders would go on to punt once more but the Mount Ayr defense fell on a fumbled Southwest Valley snap that put them on the Southwest Valley 26.
With a rush by Austin Cole down to the 12 and a Brayden Pierson catch at the one, the Raiders were able to punch it in with Adler Shay to close out the first quarter and tie the contest up at six points each, after both teams missed their respective field goal attempts on the point after.
The start of the second saw a three minute scoring drive by the Timberwolves as they continued to lead the Raiders. This time, they were able to tack on two on the conversion play to make it a 14-6 contest.
With just 50 seconds on the clock, the Raiders scored on a sidearm pass by Jaixen Frost to Pierson, who was able to make multiple defenders miss on his way to the endzone. The two-point try was no good and the Raiders trailed 14-12, but felt like momentum was on their side.
Southwest Valley returned the kick to their own 39 and on the first play from the line of scrimmage, the Timberwolves scored on a long pass from Knapp to Wilkinson.
The Timberwolves were elated, up 21-12 with 32.6 seconds on the clock before they would head into halftime and begin the second half with the ball and chance to go up two scores.
Mount Ayr had different plans, though.
The ball would be returned to the Mount Ayr 31 and the Raiders executed a play that had just been added to the book on Tuesday and only worked once on Wednesday.
Frost threw the ball to Pierson who then pitched it back to Austin Cole who took the ball down to the Southwest Valley 34 with 14 seconds on the clock.
Frost found Pierson on the drive once more with nine seconds and counting left on the clock. Pierson used his athletic ability, once more, to juke his way into the endzone and make it a 21-19 game after the point after kick was good.
The momentum stayed with the Raiders as they forced a Timberwolf fourth and 15 to force a punt, however, the momentum shifted when Mount Ayr’s Frost took a big hit on a run and fumbled the ball on the Mount Ayr 45.
The fumble would see six more points on the board for the Timberwolves, however, the PAT would be blocked by Jaydon Knight. His first of three blocked kicks on the night.
The Raiders answered back with a familiar name being called.
On the kick return, Pierson slipped through multiple tackles for an 86-yard kick-off return to put the Raiders right back up there.
The Raiders attempted to even the score with another two-point try, however, it was no good. Southwest Valley held the lead going into the fourth quarter, 27-25.
The final 12 minutes of play began with a fourth and two punt, but the snap went way over the punters head and as he picked it up and tried to boot it down field, Knight became a wall and knocked it down and after a tussle on the ground with the ball squirting out, Knight was back on his feet to scoop it up and received a block from a teammate to score from maybe three yards out.
The Raider two-point try was finally good and the Raiders led for the first time of the game, 33-27.
Mount Ayr held Southwest Valley to a fourth and seven, but with the game on the line, the Timberwolf offense stayed out, but a false start backed them up and the punt team came out.
The Raiders made the most of the opportunity.
The Mount Ayr drive did stall with a fourth and two, but Frost was able to pitch the ball to Cole who moved the sticks that set up a Cole touchdown and another two-point conversion to see the Raiders up 41-27 with just under six minutes remaining.
The Timberwolves wouldn’t give up, though, and on their next drive, they took it in for six. Knight would blast through the A gap again and block his second PAT attempt of the night, giving Mount Ayr an eight point lead.
The Raiders were held to a fourth and five and the punt team came out. Pierson lined up to punt the ball away, but instead of punting, as he was being brought down, found Cole for a short little dink pass that saw the Raiders get the first down.
Lining up in victory formation, the Raiders knelt the ball and ran the clock out to become the District Champions in Class A District 7.
“It feels great, but as a person it’s not a district championship for me. It’s the first one I’ve been able to coach for, but it’s great for these seniors and great for the kids,” said coach Ryan Victor. “I don’t think people’s expectations for us were very high, I think we maybe thought we would, but a lot of people thought Southwest Valley or Riverside were going to and I’m happy we could come out here and show everyone we are a good football team and that’s what feels the greatest, that these guys won the district title and no one thought they were going to.”
Brayden Pierson was a force on the field for the Raiders Friday night, catching three passes for 55 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He also returned a kick for an 86-yard touchdown, had one interception and was involved in a fake punt pass to Cole to get the first down to close out the game as well as setting up the end of the first half touchdown pass with the trick play, making the catch and pitch to Cole that would see one of his receiving touchdowns on the night.
“I was really relying on my guys for the blocks. They had really good blocks tonight and I found the open gap,” said Pierson. “It means a lot [that quarterback Frost trusts him]. We built a bond since the game I made an 84-yard touchdown.”
Pierson was also critical of the downfalls of the team and was able to see the mistakes they made and what improvements they needed to make going forward.
“We needed to speak out on the corners and talk to each other,” said Pierson. “We need to communicate.”
It will be a night to remember for him for sure and coach Ryan Victor had praise for the young man after the game.
“Brayden has been dealing with a lot of adversity early in the season. We knew he was a tremendous athlete, but if your mental isn’t right there’s not going to be a lot going on for you,” said coach Victor. “He’s been good for himself, keeping his mind on track and I am happy for him. We have a lot of kids that can make plays and the fact that it was BP tonight, that’s the icing on the cake. It’s proved to himself how good of a player he is and I’m excited to see what he can do in the next weeks.”
Coach Victor also talked about the teams adversity tonight with their defensive coordinator out sick and coach Smith stepping in for the first time in that defensive role and former head coach Lambert came back for one game.
“High school football, every week, there’s something going on,” said coach Victor. “This week it really hit us hard, but I have amazing coaches and amazing support staff and the fact that coach Lambert is willing to come back. Coach Showalter did some gameplanning but coach Smith called the defense today and made some adjustments. It’s the supporting cast and it’s the fact that we have guys that care about this program and are willing to step-up for it and do what it takes for us to be successful.”
Winning the district title means the Raiders will host the first playoff game at home at Raider Stadium, which coach Victor knows the importance of.
“It’s huge. There’s no place like home. Dorothy said it best and there’s a reason for that” said coach Victor. “We love our facilities, but we love our crowd. We are excited who we get to play and who gets to experience Mount Ayr.”
The Raiders will host Madrid (3-5) on Friday, October 22 at 7 p.m.
1 2 3 4 F
MA 6 13 6 16 41
SWV 6 15 6 6 33
3:57 – SWV – Knapp to Oathoudt 12-yd pass. PAT no good.
0.00 – MA – Shay 1-yd rush. PAT blocked.
9:23 – SWV – Knapp to Currin 45-yd pass. 2pt try good.
50.7 – MA – Frost to Pierson 12-yd pass. 2pt try no good.
32.6 – SWV – Knapp to Wilkinson 61-yd pass. PAT good.
0.00 – Frost to Pierson 34-yd pass. PAT good.
2:20 – SWV – Myers 8-yd rush. PAT blocked.
2:06 – MA – Pierson 86-yd kick return. 2pt try good.
11:52 – MA – Knight 11-yd fumble recovery. 2 pt try good.
5:56 – MA – Cole 14-yd rush. 2pt try good.
4:12 – SWV – Myers 1-yd rush. PAT blocked.
1st Downs MA SWV
Total 11 15
Rushing 5 10
Passing 5 4
Penalty 1 1
Attempts 29 46
Gained 137 168
Lost 2 39
Net 135 129
Completions 8 5
Attempts 17 9
Percentage 47 56
Intercepted 0 1
Net 120 140
Total Offense 255 269
Punts 4 4
Average 43 31
Punt Return 30 4
Kickoff 152 270
Int. Returns 31 0
Fumble Ret. 11 0
Fumbles 2 2
Fumbles lost 2 2
Penalties 5 4
Yards lost 46 49
Comp Att Yds
Frost 8 17 120
Att. Gain Avg
Frost 8 54 6.7
Shay 10 39 3.9
Knight 2 0 0
Cole 9 42 4.6
Rec Yds Avg
Pierson 3 55 18.3
Shay 2 16 8
Knight 2 14 7
Cole 1 35 35
Frost 2 2
Case 3 3
Pierson 1 0
Martin 5 2
Dugan 0 2
Shay 6 4
Grose 0 3
Knight 6 4
Cole 3 3
C.Larson 1 2
M.Larson 0 3
Swietlik 1 1
Strange 2 1
Frost 3 42
Cole 3 44
Pierson 4 172
Pierson 3 30
Case 1 11
Pierson 3 109
Grose 2 32
Knight 2 11
Pierson 1 31
Knight 2 0