Ottawa was staring at an 8-0 deficit at the hands of winless Santa Fe Trail on frosty night at Steve Grogan Stadium.
A different team showed up in the second half. The Cyclones played with a purpose and executed in all three phases to pull out a 20-8 victory in the season finale.
“We are a family,” Ottawa senior lineman Mickey Jensen said about not pulling apart after the disastrous first half. “It was a silent agreement. We got each other’s back. It turned when we stepped on the field for the second half. We came out as a family ... not just a group of kids. We kept believing in each other.”
Ottawa needed that belief as things did not go perfect in the second half. Ottawa withstood two scoring chances stopped inside the 10-yard line and some ill-timed penalties.
Ottawa turned the momentum around on the second offensive series. Ottawa got its initial first down of the game and then quarterback Taylor Graf sped 63 yards for a touchdown to pull Ottawa within 8-6 with 6:39 left in the third quarter.
The Ottawa defense held Santa Fe Trail to one first down — which came on the final drive of the game — in the second half.
“We were a little down at halftime,” Ottawa coach Marc Bergan said. “Their front, which we have not seen, gave us some problems. We kind of figured it out and ran the ball better in the second half.
Ottawa’s next drive stalled at the Charger 8. Santa Fe Trail fumbled and Ottawa recovered at the 14.
The Cyclones were stymied again as the Chargers held at the 5.
The defense forced a punt and Alex Griffey returned it 22 yards to the Charger 18 with 8:20 left in the game.
Graf found an wide open Kaden Shaffer in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass on the first play.
“We got some momentum,” Bergan said. “We had a couple of drives that stalled. We got a great play call on the touchdown pass. We gave him just enough time to get it off.
“Our defense got stops. We got field position. We had a nice punt return from Griffey.”
Shaffer said he craddled the ball into his body for the catch. The senior, who is the tailback, lined up at a tight end position and ran free off the line of scrimmage.
“When I heard the call, I knew we were going to score,” Shaffer said. “They did not see me. Taylor threw a great ball.”
Ottawa (3-6) forced another punt. Ottawa started at the Charger 43. Senior back Kevin Adams found a seam right up the middle and scooted 37 yards for a touchdown.
Shaffer added the 2-point conversion on a run to give Ottawa a 20-8 lead with 3:33 remaining.
“It was nice to see Kevin Adams to break one loose and get a touchdown,” Bergan said. “We finally got one of those to pop through. Taylor got the pick at the end. We had some seniors come through. It was nice for those guys to make those plays.”
Shaffer said winning the final game meant a lot to the players, especially the seniors.
“It hard on the seniors ... it should be,” Bergan said.
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