Frontier League rivals went toe to toe and kept fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish Friday at Steve Grogan Stadium.
The Ottawa and Baldwin football teams battled down to the final second as the Cyclones pulled out a 33-32 victory.
"It feels so good to win," Ottawa coach Rob Hedrick said. "You cherish every win. It was four quarters of physical and mental grind. A lot of these guys have only played this game at the varsity level for two weeks. They are finding out how hard this game is. In our league, you are playing against dudes every play. Baldwin had some big, talented young men. We could not move them. We could not run between the tackles. That hurt us and makes it hard. The kids battled and made plays.
"We had so many kids making plays. We have some guys that can run. It showed tonight."
Ottawa, which was hurt by turnovers in the opener, turned the tables on Baldwin. The Cyclones came up with three key fumble recoveries. Ottawa scooped two of the fumbles and returned them for touchdowns and final fumble was recovered in the waning seconds to seal the victory.
"When you talk about a full team effort, that pretty much sums that up," Hedrick said. "We had defensive scores, turnovers, special team scores and offensive scores … big plays. The defense sucked it up and made plays when they had to. We capitalized on Baldwin mistakes."
Hedrick said because of injuries the full roster was needed to get the victory.
"We have a lot of guys playing," he said. "Every senior played their heart out. They are great leaders. They made it happen. They led us to the win."
A couple of freshmen played key roles. Josue Navarro sprinted for two touchdowns on a 56-yard pass play and an 82-yard kickoff return.
Tommy Evans filled in and held his own in his first varsity action.
"That was a difference maker right there," Hedrick said of Navarro’s scoring plays. "Freshman Tommy Evans had a really good week of practice. We wanted to reward him by suiting him up for varsity. He played a lot and did a nice job too."
The Ottawa defense needed one stop to seal the victory as Baldwin received a punt with about two minutes remaining. The Bulldogs drove near the Ottawa 30, but a fumble recovered by Ottawa’s Xavier Vink sealed the victory.
"That was sweet," Hedrick said. "We got really good pass pressure. We need to build on that and get better."
Ottawa (1-1) plays Friday at Spring Hill.