Grand finale for Tritons

Iowa Central football team shocks No. 7 Butler to end long losing skid

—Photo by Paul DeCoursey Tim Butcher, a Manson Northwest Webster graduate, makes a tackle for Iowa Central earlier this season. In their last game as Tritons on Saturday, Butcher and the sophomores went out a winner, stunning seventh-ranked Butler on the road, 7-0.

EL DORADO, Kan. — Kevin Twait didn’t get philosophical or even sentimental in his pregame speech on Saturday.

The legendary Iowa Central football coach simply pushed his squad to focus on the here and now, with an entire offseason of work ahead.

The Tritons took Twait’s words to heart and ended the nation’s longest losing streak at 25 games, stunning seventh-ranked Butler, 7-0, on the Grizzlies’ home field.

“We asked our guys to go out and play hard. Simple as that,” Twait said. “I told them they’re not going to play for another eight or nine months, so make your last game the best. Be the best teammate you can be. I didn’t say any magic words. It was pretty straight forward.

“I’m so happy for our sophomores. They’ve played with so much resilience. They were rewarded for fighting the fight and never giving up, no matter how frustrating it got.”

Iowa Central’s last victory was Oct. 10, 2015 inside Dodger Stadium when they defeated Highland 13-12 in a night contest.

Butler won nearly every offensive category, but the Tritons earned the tallies in the crucial aspects of the game. The Tritons possessed the ball for 36:28. Iowa Central had 11 first downs to eight and won the turnover battle, 2-0.

“Our defense played lights-out,” Twait said. “Offensively we didn’t look pretty, but our defense kept their offense off the field.

“They have some bona fide Div. I players, but our defensive line kicked the tar out of them.”

Butler entered the contest with 329 points on the season and averaging 32.9 points per contest, winning five straight contests. They were coming off a 31-27 victory over No. 9 Independence.

The Tritons had been outscored 293-73 in their past five games.

In a game that had no offensive touchdowns, the Tritons came up with the lone score on defense. Jackson Martens returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown with 11 seconds remaining in the first half.

“We thought maybe they would take a knee their and go into the locker room at 0-0,” Twait said. “We hit their quarterback and he dropped the ball, and Martin, who is an outstanding linebacker picked it up and went 56 yards.

“I think our locker room would have been energized at 0-0, but up 7-0 — it wasn’t quiet.”

Butler nearly scored in the third quarter, as CJ Sims broke free for a long run, but was tackled at the three-yard line and fumbled into the end zone.

“We challenged them in the third quarter. We said that we would get their best shot,” Twait said. “Sims, who is a D-I back, squirted through the middle, but our two defensive backs, Le’Vonte Larry and Darryl Kelley, didn’t give up on the play. We missed a couple of tackles on the play, but it was a testament to those two who didn’t give up and made a great strip.

“Le’Vonte kept pursuing and Kelley stripped the ball, making a huge play.”

The Tritons only managed 86 yards of total offense, while the Grizzlies had 239, but they got back to Triton football, running the ball 52 times and throwing only 16.

“We had so many guys plays great football,” Twait said. “Our punter Tyreke Williams had an outstanding game punting into the wind and putting them in tough field position.

“Tim Butcher (Manson Northwest Webster) was a beast (on the defensive line). They had no answer to him.”

Iowa Central nearly iced the contest in the fourth quarter, when Xavier Senger trotted into the end zone, but the play was called back on a holding penalty. The Tritons were able to then run out the clock and put an end to a losing skid that has spanned three seasons.

“We got into victory formation on third and fourth down and once that was done, our sideline lost it,” Twait said. “It was great to see the bounce in their step and to let them know that all their work in practice and all the agility drills paid off.

“It was great for our coaching staff. We knocked on the door a couple of times this season and had a chance. But (Saturday) we really battled. I’m so pleased for staff and kids.”