Seven days removed from the worst loss in program history, Iowa Central proved just how important a short memory is in football here Saturday.
The Tritons sent their sophomores out in style with a 35-25 victory over North Dakota Science at Dodger Stadium, as Iowa Central clinched a Midwest Football Conference playoff berth yesterday afternoon in its home finale.
Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Jontel Clayton rushed for 195 yards in a farewell to his stomping grounds and fellow sophomore leader Joe Feldpausch picked off a pair of passes as the Tritons (6-3 overall, 1-3 MFC) secured a date next Saturday at Ellsworth (5-3, 3-1) for a berth in the Graphic Edge Bowl. The 20th-ranked Panthers were beaten by No. 1 Iowa Western on Saturday, 65-14.
''What a way for these sophomore kids to finish the regular season,'' Iowa Central head coach Kevin Twait said. ''We were pretty low after the (73-7) Iowa Western loss last week. Our coaching staff knew it would be a challenge to get back on track and not let (a defeat) like that beat us twice.
''I give a tremendous amount of credit to my assistants and our players for showing the ability to bounce back. You'll always remember your last home game, and I'm glad we circled the wagons and got the job done so that this will be a day they can look back on and smile.''
Clayton darted up the program's career rushing charts by flirting with the 200-yard mark on a workman-like 35-carry performance. The sophomore moved within 39 yards of Charlie White's school record, which has stood for nearly 30 years.
ND Science - Eric Mielke (35-yard field goal), 5:37 left first.
Iowa Central - Brandynn Clark (10-yard pass from Chris Bell), 2:14 left first. Alden Haffar kick.
ND Science - Mielke (33-yard field goal), 14:46 left second.
Iowa Central - Jontel Clayton (3-yard run), 9:30 left second. Haffar kick.
Iowa Central - Clayton (16-yard run), 11:56 left third. Haffar kick.
ND Science - Osborn (3-yard run), 5:58 left third. Run failed.
ND Science - Johntae Outten (7-yard pass from Josh Hansana), 0:33 left third. Mielke kick.
Iowa Central - Clayton (8-yard run), 10:50 left fourth. Haffar kick.
Iowa Central - Kaden Cue (6-yard pass from Teag Klyn), 3:20 left fourth. Haffar kick.
ND Science - Osborn (14-yard pass from J.T. Jurasin), 1:57 left fourth. Pass failed.
RUSHING-Iowa Central: Jontel Clayton 35-195, Kippie Ward 12-64, Tom McClimon 6-33, Chris Bell 1-0, Teag Klyn 3-(minus-10). ND Science: Lamont Osborn 9-28, Josh Hansana 2-12, J.T. Jurasin 3-(minus-3), Claude Garrett 2-(minus-5).
PASSING-Iowa Central: Chris Bell 4-7-0-34, Teag Klyn 3-4-0-13. ND Science: Josh Hansana 19-39-2-218, J.T. Jurasin 7-8-0-84.
RECEIVING-Iowa Central: Brandynn Clark 4-34, Kaden Cue 1-6, Jaquon Goodman 1-4, Juwan Simmons 1-3. ND Science: Lamont Osborn 7-86, Claude Garrett 4-60, Johntae Outten 4-52, Cedric Chappell 3-44, J.T. Miles 3-28, Shamir Akhdar 3-28, Lorenzo Mitchell 2-4.
''We really worked hard this week to get that taste out of our mouth (from the setback in Council Bluffs),'' said Clayton, the Dodgers' career rushing champ. ''It feels good knowing we can rebound and finish (the regular season) on a high note.
''We wanted to put ourselves in a position to play Ellsworth again and try to get back to a bowl game. We did that, so now we'll focus on (the trip to Iowa Falls) and go from there.''
Clayton hit paydirt three times. Fifty-seven of Iowa Central's 68 plays were on the ground, while the Triton defense allowed just 42 rushing yards on 19 carries by the Wildcats (3-5, 0-4).
''We didn't give up any big plays, we were in the positive for turnover margin and I really thought we whipped them up front,'' Twait said. ''It was a vintage Jontel Clayton performance, which was fitting given he's been the cornerstone of our offense for these two years.''
Feldpausch, a safety, picked off Science's Josh Hansana twice before the Wildcat quarterback left with an injury. He also had a key sack on 3rd-and-4 midway through the fourth quarter after Science had sliced into what had been a 15-point deficit.
Both starting signal-callers were sidelined. J.T. Jurasin relieved Hansana, while Teag Klyn came in for Iowa Central when Chris Bell got hurt in the second quarter. Klyn threw a late touchdown pass to Manson Northwest Webster graduate Kaden Cue to push Iowa Central's lead back to double digits.
''Teag did an outstanding job managing the game and doing what we needed him to do,'' Twait said. ''We got banged up in this one. We have to take the 'next man in' approach to our injury situation, though, because that's all a part of the game - especially this late in the season.''
The Tritons now face an Ellsworth squad they lost to just two weeks ago at home, 24-17. Iowa Central let a double-digit lead slip away that afternoon.
The winner will assure itself a contest at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Dec. 2.