CENTER POINT - They’ve been in the same position many times over the past several weeks, with the clock winding down and in need of a touchdown to win the game.
How would the Anamosa football team react when the pressure was once again placed squarely right on them in a class 2A first-round playoff clash at Center Point-Urbana Friday, Oct. 16?
This time, they would seize the moment and post one of the most thrilling victories in Raider football playoff history.
“This was a huge win for our team, program and community,” said Anamosa football coach Caleb Huss, as his team scored with just 1:14 remaining on the fourth quarter clock to walk off the field with an amazing 25-24 triumph over a stunned Pointer team and their legion of fans in Center Point.
“We preached all week to our guys that this was a great opportunity. It has been a few years since our community has gotten to watch a playoff football game, and we needed to take advantage of the chance. Our guys prepared super-well, played their hearts out and capitalized when it counted most.”
The triumph was only the third in Anamosa football playoff history (and first from any season other than 2015), and first since Nov. 2, 2015, when the Raiders defeated Williamsburg 42-14 in the second round on their way to a school-record 11-1 campaign that fall.
The game Friday night appeared to be in serious peril after Center Point-Urbana scored a touchdown with 5:54 remaining in the game to erase what was an 18-16 Raider lead, taking a 24-18 lead.
When the Anamosa (3-5) offense was stopped on downs at the Pointer 39-yard-line with 4:08 to play in the game, things looked even more bleak.
But then the Raider defense stood tall and made an enormous 3-and-out stop.
“Defensively, we talked over and over again about stopping their run game,” Huss said. “I thought tonight we did a great job in that area. Our linebackers and defensive line played tough, and our defense came up with huge stops for us to get the ball back.”
On a crucial third down play, Anamosa senior Nathan Keating made a clutch tackle that forced the Pointers to punt, giving the Raider offense one more chance to win the game.
This time, they would make all the right plays in what turned out to be an epic nine-play, 71-yard drive to history.
“Offensively, we talked about taking care of the ball, playing with tempo and winning the battles in short yardage situations,” Huss said. “We knew we were going to have to run the ball to take advantage of situations in the pass game when we had a numbers advantage. Grahm (Humpal) played well and battled all night. I thought we controlled the game well, made some checks and made plays when we needed them most.”
It was Humpal who got the offense started on the final drive, rushing twice while picking up a first down before going to the air the following three plays, including a huge 21-yard completion to Trae Klatt on third-and-10 with just 2:07 remaining on the clock.
One play later Humpal raced 17 yards to set the Anamosa offense up at the Pointer 18-yard line before the CP-U defense stepped up and forced a third-and-17 call with the Raider season on the line.
Poised, calm and confident, Humpal found Klatt near the goal line and drilled a pass to the senior who did the rest dragging a Pointer defender with him into the end zone.
“We’ve been in this situation before and that helped me stay calm through that drive,” Humpal said. “Trae was making plays all game long, and with the way he can go up and get balls, I just threw it up and he made the play for the touchdown.”
The touchdown, with 1:14 remaining in the game, tied the score at 24-24, and Anamosa needed the all-important extra point from kicker Dominic Haas.
The senior delivered with the kick of his life, splitting the uprights and giving the Raiders an improbable one-point lead.
“We made so many big plays in that last drive, and Grahm had a lot of big runs that really helped get us close and in position for him to be able to get me the ball,” Klatt said. “The pass hit me in the hands and got tipped into the air, but I was able to grab it and get into the end zone. That was such an amazing feeling to be able to give us the lead.”
But the game wasn’t over yet.
The hosts still had 1:14 remaining.
“We didn’t want to have another Maquoketa (a game the Raiders lost in the final seconds earlier this season) finish happen here, and our defense got the job done,” Humpal said. “We needed a stop to win the game and they got it.”
This time, there would be no late heroics from the opponent, instead senior Andrew Morris sealed the victory with a huge quarterback sack and when a desperation Pointer pass fell to the ground, Anamosa had their historic playoff football victory in hand.
“We made some huge plays on third down in this game and worked through some second and long situations, created multiple turnovers and really played some tough defense on CP-U’s last two drives,” Huss said. “Our offense coming through on that last drive at the end was amazing. Our offensive line gave Grahm the time he needed with two starters out this week, we had guys step up and make plays.”
The game started inauspiciously the Raiders, as Center Point-Urbana, after stopping the Raider offense on their opening drive of the game, quickly scored on a 49-yard touchdown pass play to take an 8-0 lead.
But Anamosa answered right back, as Humpal wound his way through the Pointer defense and into the end zone on a 15-yard scamper. After a failed two-point conversion attempt, trailed 8-6 after one quarter.
The score stayed the same to the half as well, before both offenses found their rhythm again in the third quarter, and it was Anamosa who would strike first,
Caleb Otting hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass from Humpal on the Raiders’ opening drive of the third quarter, and after another failed two-point try, led 12-8.
The lead didn’t last long, as 17-seconds later the Pointers were back in the end zone scoring with a hook-and-ladder pass play that covered 67 yards, and Anamosa was facing a 16-12 deficit.
The third quarter scoring wasn’t done yet, as Ky Kaufmann recovered a CP-U fumble to set the Raider offense up again, and Humpal cashed it in with a 10-yard run that put the visitors ahead 18-16.
The hosts took the lead with 5:54 to go in the game scoring on a second 67-yard hook-and-ladder touchdown before the late Anamosa heroics.
The Raiders had a huge night offensively, amassing 453 total yards including 251 on the ground.
Humpal led the rushing attacking grinding out 155 yards on 22 carries while Alex Casey added 40 more on 13 attempts.
Humpal was sensational through the air as well completing 16-of-28 passes for 209 yards.
Defensively, Levi Ehresman was all over the field all game long collecting an impressive 14 tackles which also included a quarterback sack. Morris added two big sacks, including the one at the end of the game that allowed Anamosa fans to start celebrating.
The win advances the Anamosa team to the class 2A playoff second round, where they will travel to 10th-ranked ranked Camanche Friday, Oct. 23.
The 2020 Raiders become just the second team in school history to play multiple playoff games in the same season (2015 was the other playing three contests), and overall are the fifth to ever make a post-season berth (1989, 2004, 2014, 2015 are the others).
“We are excited to get another chance to play a very good Camanche team,” Huss said. “Our crowd was awesome Friday night at CP-U, and they definitely gave us a boost. It would be awesome for our guys for us to show up in Camanche with even more people Friday night.”