CASCADE, Iowa — With seconds remaining and 11 defenders in front of him, Trent Koelker is still the most dangerous player on the field.
Dyersville Beckman’s dynamic senior wide receiver and return man came through when the Trailblazers needed him most, fielding a Cascade punt at his own 30-yard line in the final seconds and weaving his way around would-be tackler after tackler, traveling 65 yards to the 5-yard line before getting taken down with 4.1 seconds to play in a tie game.
Koelker’s amazing play set up Logan Burchard’s game-winning 22-yard field goal with 0.03 seconds left on the clock, lifting the Trailblazers to a wild 28-19 victory over the rival Cougars on Friday night at Cascade High School.
“We just believed in ourselves and came out with the win,” Koelker said. “I was just trying to make something out of it. I did and I had some good blocks in front of me. I started cramping up and limping and thought, ‘Oh God, not now with 10 yards to go.’ But Logan came in clutch in the end with the field goal for the win, and that’s all I care about.”
Burchard’s boot gave Beckman (2-1, 2-0 Class 1A District 5) a 22-19 lead with just ticks left on the clock, and Cascade (2-2, 1-1) attempted a lateral play on the ensuing kick return that bounced back into the end zone. The Trailblazers recovered the fumble for a touchdown for the game’s final margin — it was such a wild scrum, not even anyone on the Beckman sideline could tell who pounced on the final score.
“Chalk that up as a team touchdown,” Beckman coach Mark Atwater said. “Cascade-Beckman games are like that, and it’s a blast. It’s fun, but I’m probably only going to make it to (age) 50 or something with games like this.”
In a game where no kicks were a guarantee, Burchard had one extra point and a field goal attempt blocked – a 39-yard attempt for the lead with 1:11 remaining -- as well as a missed extra point before being called on to win it with his leg.
“Coach puts all the confidence in me,” Burchard said. “He gives me a lot of confidence and told me to go out there and win the game. It was automatic. I was a little nervous, but I’m just happy we came out with a win.”
Beckman’s defense set up its first taste of the end zone. On Cascade’s second possession, quarterback Justin Roling was intercepted by Conner Grover, who returned it 25 yards to the Cougars’ 19-yard line. Five plays later, Koelker took an end-around 6 yards for a touchdown run and a 6-0 lead after the extra point missed with 4:16 left in the first quarter.
Following consecutive punts by the Cougars, Beckman embarked on the best scoring drive of the first half. Quarterback Offerman engineered a 10-play, 50-yard drive over 5:05 of clock that was capped on his 2-yard QB keeper for a touchdown. Beckman’s lead was extended to 13-0 with 5:18 until half.
Another quick three-and-out by Cascade allowed the Blazers to build on that lead before the break. Offerman came out firing and connected with Elliot Naughton over the middle for a 52-yard hookup down to the 9-yard line. On the next play, Offerman kept it on a keeper sweeping right and bulldozed through three Cougars defenders to find paydirt with 3:21 to go for a 19-0 advantage for Beckman, which held to halftime.
“It was great to pound and ground and move the ball that way,” Koelker said. “It was a great start to the game. That’s how it all started, with the running game.”
The Cougars mounted their comeback in the second half. After forcing Beckman into a three-and-out to open the third, Cascade traveled 80 yards in nine plays with the spark coming on a fake punt. Jackson McAleer – the Cougars’ starting QB last season, and now the backup and punter — ran the fake perfectly with a 5-yard toss Carson Staner on fourth-and-4 from their own 26-yard line.
The play call fired up the Cougars, and it was a much different game from that point on. Five plays later, Jack Menster broke loose on a 39-yard touchdown run up the middle to make it 19-6 with 6:51 left in the third quarter.
Cascade opened the fourth quarter with a fourth-and-goal at the 1, and Menster scooted across the goal line to make it a 19-13 game with 11:52 remaining. An interception by Tanner Simon then poised the Cougars to complete the comeback, as Menster’s 9-yard touchdown run tied the game. The Trailblazers blocked the extra point to keep it at 19-19 with 4:53 to go.
Menster led the Cougars with 27 carries for 162 yards and three touchdowns.
“It was a good game,” Cascade coach Tim Frake said. “A play here and a play there. It’s a close ball game. They got that big punt return and we were trying to kick that out of bounds, but it didn’t work with a little pressure. They made a nice play and got the win.”
The Trailblazers then drove to the Cascade 22 looking for the win, but Burchard’s 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked. The Cougars then stalled trying to drive for the win, and their punt that was planned to go out of bounds was fielded by Koelker on the sideline to set up the last-second theatrics.
“You make them punt in that situation, because that’s what we got back there. A stud,” Atwater said. “I’m just so proud of Logan on a tough night, wasn’t seeing them go through, but he saw the one that mattered most go through.”