WAVERLY — Just 3 more yards.
The Central College football team drove 64 yards on its final possession but ran out of time at the Wartburg 3-yard line and suffered a crushing 20-13 defeat.
After picking up a first down, Dutch quarterback Nate Snead (senior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) spiked the ball to stop the clock with 1 second remaining. But Snead's pass to the end zone was beyond the reach of a diving Preston West (senior, Swisher, Cedar Rapids Prairie HS) as time expired.
"It's a tough way to end it," coach Jeff McMartin said. "I thought we had the right call and we had a good opportunity there, we just didn't convert it."
Points were scarce in the first three quarters for Central (6-3 overall, 5-2 Iowa Conference), which entered the fourth period trailing 13-3. But Kevin Sheldon (freshman, West Des Moines, Valley HS) punched a 23-yard field goal through with 10:46 left to cap a 17-play, 79-yard drive, his second field goal of the day. Then freshman defensive back Spencer Boeyink (Pella) blocked a punt that Central recovered at the Wartburg 20-yard line. Five plays later, Snead powered his way into the end zone from the 3 to tie the score.
But Wartburg (6-2 overall, 4-2 conference), after seeing a double-digit second-half lead disappear for the third consecutive home game, came to life for its first points since the first quarter. The Knights quickly moved 71 yards in five plays with Donald Miller catching Dan Stiefel's 26-yard TD pass with 5:04 left.
However the Dutch had to burn too much time on the final drive, needing 17 plays before time expired.
"We had opportunities throughout the game to get some points on the board," McMartin said. "Sometimes we did a good job of that and sometimes we didn't."
Snead had a long afternoon, carrying the ball a career-high 37 times for 109 yards despite being sacked four times. Central rushed for 256 yards but wasn't as productive through the air as Snead completed 10 of 22 passes for 86 yards with one interception. Jeremy Snead (senior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) had four catches for 28 yards.
Running back Ross Doehrmann (junior, Williamsburg) gained 62 yards on 10 carries while Josh Osborn (freshman, Burlington) had 45 yards on 11 attempts.
Central converted four times on fourth down, including twice on its final drive.
"We just weren't able to get a couple of key first downs," McMartin said. "We got down in the Red Zone and weren't able to capitalize with touchdowns."
However McMartin praised the Dutch defense, which twice stopped Wartburg on fourth down. The Knights benefited from a Central fumble and blocked punt early in the game, but were stymied both times.
"I thought our defense played pretty well the whole game," McMartin said. "We've got a lot to build on there. It was a great effort. They bailed us out of some tough situations, especially early and that gave us a chance."
Wartburg outgained Central 342 yards to 290. The Knights gained just 36 yards on the ground but Stiefel completed 20 of 35 passes for 254 yards.
Linebacker Keith Rush (junior, Griswold) had seven tackles while defensive backs Jake Petersen (senior, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) and Ryan Schmidt (senior, Keswick, Tri-County HS) and linebacker Ryan Steinkamp (senior, Carroll, Kuemper Catholic HS) each had six stops. Steinkamp had two tackles for loss.
Central has a week off before preparing for the season finale Nov. 12 at Simpson College.
"We've got to regroup," McMartin said. "This is an important test for us to see how we're going to respond."