KEOSAUQUA — Central Lee’s season-opening 35-8 win over Van Buren was all about the Hawks’ resilience.
They weren’t daunted by turnovers on their opening two possessions inside their opponent’s territory. They saw two key players leave the game with serious injuries.
And when the Warriors scored early in the second half, Central Lee sealed the victory with a quick touchdown drive of its own.
“Ultimately, I think our guys played together as a team,” said first-year Central Lee coach Doug Dodds. “And that's something we've been talking about and stressing — to be successful, you have to play that way.”
The Hawks had 378 yards of total offense, hitting big first-half runs that staggered Van Buren.
Central Lee had lost its last three games to the Warriors, and the way this game started didn’t bode well.
Central Lee’s Landon Rudd recovered a Van Buren fumble on the second offensive play of the game, but the Hawks gave it right back on a bad pitch three plays later.
Then, after stopping the Warriors and getting the ball at the Van Buren 38-yard line, the Hawks gave the ball away on another fumble.
But Cory Jones’ interception on the next play got the ball back for Central Lee. Jones returned the interception to the 10-yard line, and Kayden Calfee got the remaining yards on two runs to put the Hawks up 7-0.
Central Lee got a three-and-out on the next possession, then needed one play to increase its lead. Grant Myhre’s 70-yard touchdown run put the Hawks up 14-0.
Jones had an 8-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 lead, then Calfee’s 11-yard run right before halftime gave Central Lee a 28-0 lead.
Van Buren scored its lone points on its second possession of the second half when Bryce Newcomb scored on a 1-yard run, and then Lucas Fett ran in the two-point conversion.
But the Hawks, with Dodds yelling, “Finish” from the sidelines as they began their next possession, drove 65 yards on seven plays, the drive capped by Landan Lowenberg’s 22-yard touchdown run.
All of the Hawks’ yards came on the ground.
“We understand that there's going to be certain things teams are going to say, ‘We're probably not gonna let you do,’” Dodds said. “We were able to execute the other phases or offense tonight. Which, that's awesome to see.”
The Hawks lost two key players during the game. Jones went down with a first-half injury to his left knee. Hunter Gregory suffered a serious arm injury in the second half.
Calfee finished with 143 yards on 10 carries. Chase Johnson rushed for 87 yards.
Dodds liked the way his defense controlled the Warriors.
“We played with great leverage on the line,” he said. “We flew around on defense. We did a great job in the secondary. I mean, we played great team defense and we're proud of that.”
The Hawks take momentum into their home opener next Friday against Cardinal.
“We just go to practice on Monday, get ready for the next game,” Dodds said. “Get back to work.”