MONTICELLO - Riding a 14-game losing streak coming into their Cowbell contest at Monticello, few thought the winless Anamosa football team was going to be able to pull off an upset against a Panther club that just two weeks ago was ranked among the best in class 2A.
Too many people forget you throw out the records when it comes to rivalry games, and Friday, Oct. 11, was another case in point as the Raiders made a huge statement with a program changing 21-13 road triumph that returned the Cowbell to Anamosa soil for the first time since 2015.
“I really can’t put into words what this means for the team, the school and the community,” said a euphoric Lucas Stanton, as Anamosa closed out the triumph over the Panthers with some sensational play on the defensive side of the football.
“Just to see their faces at the end of the game was priceless, everyone so happy and celebrating. And it wasn’t just the players. The fans and students came running onto the field to celebrate, too. It was a moment that none of us are going to forget.”
The victory was the first over the Panthers since the 2015 team rolled to a 52-28 blowout triumph on their way to a school record 11-1 campaign that fall.
The win was also the first for the Anamosa program since week one last season when the Raiders topped Maquoketa 17-6.
“We’ve had so many chances to win games between now and then and for whatever reason we weren’t able to get it done,” Stanton said. “To be able to close this one out, and on the road at Monticello, is so rewarding. I think the kids would probably tell you, if there was one game that they wanted to win this season, this would be it. And then to come out and do it, against a Monticello team who has been having a pretty good season, is just huge for this program and give everyone a huge boost of confidence.
“Not only that, but a win like this can lift everyone’s spirits, too. Things have been pretty tough around here for a while and this allows us to finish the season strong.”
After a scoreless first quarter that saw the Raiders (1-6, 1-2) trade punts and turnovers, the Anamosa offense got going in the second stanza.
“For the first time this season we were able to establish a running game, and that was a real key to our success,” Stanton said. “Our offensive line was doing a great job and Alex Casey had his best game of the year at the right time for us.”
With Connor Andresen, Colin Heeren, Logan Dales, Andrew Morris and Alex Shover controlling the line of scrimmage, the Raiders amassed 210 rushing yards as a team.
But it was the passing game that resulted in Anamosa putting the first point on the board.
“Being able to establish that run helped loosen things up in the passing game, too,” Stanton said. “Grahm had a big game throwing the ball too, especially in the first half and we were able to get some things going.”
One of those things was a 25-yard touchdown pass from Humpal to teammate Trae Klatt at the 7:38 mark of the second quarter.
After a Jordan Brown extra point, Anamosa had a 7-0 lead.
And they were just getting started.
After Wyatt Bickford picked off a Monticello pass on the Panthers’ ensuing possession, one play later Anamosa was back in the end zone again when Casey raced 60 yards to pay dirt to hand the visitors a shocking 14-0 advantage.
“You could just feel momentum, confidence, everything swinging our way,” Stanton said. “Everyone was executing the game plan and doing their jobs and the results were exactly what we hoped they would be. And the guys weren’t done, they wanted more.”
After the Raider defense once again forced the Monticello offense into a 3-and-out, the Anamosa offense went back to work on a sensational 11-play, 82-yard drive that culminated with a Colton Borst 16-yard touchdown catch from Humpal with a mere 12.8-seconds remaining on the second quarter clock.
“I think we had everyone shocked, maybe even a few of our own fans too, with us leading 21-0 heading into the half,” Stanton said. “But we still had another half of football to play and with the way Monticello can throw the football, we hadn’t won anything yet.
“Too many times over the last couple of years we’ve played well enough to win but just couldn’t find a way to close games out. We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again against Monticello. We wanted that Cowbell back.”
While the Raider offense was still able to move the football in the second half, the visitors couldn’t find the end zone, and when the Panthers scored one third quarter touchdown and added another late in the fourth quarter, a sinking feeling was starting to settle in for Anamosa fans.
“I was thinking it too,” Stanton said. “We’ve seen this act before. Each of the last two years that I’ve been here we’d put ourselves into position to beat Monticello and both times weren’t able to get it done.
“We were not going to allow that to happen again.”
Last year the Panthers rallied for a wild 50-48 win in a game that was delayed by lightning for several hours and wasn’t completed until nearly midnight. In 2017 the Raiders saw Monticello rally for a 42-41 triumph and in 2016 the Panthers edged Anamosa 38-34.
“This time, it was our turn,” Stanton said. “And the guys got the job done.”
Though it sure wasn’t easy.
After the Raiders punted the football back to Monticello with 2:26 to play in the game, the Panthers started marching down the field looking to tie the game and got into Raider territory before a huge quarterback sack, and apparent interception seemed to end the game.
“That’s where things got a little crazy,” Stanton said. “We had quite a few calls go against us in that fourth quarter but the boys were able to battle through all of that and still close this thing out. Even when we intercepted a pass with about 30-seconds to go in the game.”
But officials ruled there was an inadvertent whistle on the fourth-down play, meaning the Levi Ehresman interception was called back, though the Raiders still had the football and needed nothing more than to take a knee to end the game, and reclaim the Cowbell.
“In the end, that’s all that mattered,” Stanton said. “We won the game and the kids got to celebrate.”
For Bickford, a senior who had a huge first half interception for the Raider defense, the win allowed him to complete a dream.
“I had never touched the Cowbell before, and it was an amazing feeling,” he said. “Being out there with all my teammates and the students and fans after the game and celebrating on the field was something we’re all never going to forget.
“To come so close so many times and lose, this is how we all wanted to end our careers against Monticello. We finally did it.”
Humpal, just a sophomore and making his first career quarterback start against Monticello, had a big night as well completing 17-of-26 passes for 190 yards and the two scores.
“I was just trying not to let my nerves get to me,” Humpal said. “Coach prepared us and we just needed to go out and execute. I think we were able to do that, even though I was pretty nervous coming in. Once we got going though, most of those nerves went away and we just started making plays.”
Casey led the Raider ground game rushing for 154 yards on 20 carries.
“I know the emotion of Friday night overwhelmed me there at the end,” Stanton said. “It did for a lot of us, coaches and players. This game meant so much, and to see all the hard work the kids have put in this year and over the last few years result in a win like this was incredible to watch.”
“Seeing everyone running onto the field to celebrate with us at the end was the moment I’ll never forget,” he said. “This is a win that can change the culture of our program, and hopefully it’s just the beginning of some great things down the road.”