Football season ends on high note

The student section was characteristically raucous, the football team elated, and the Johnston Dragons scratching their heads. Ames was slaying the dragons. Michael Johnson would be proud. But then the Dragons switched their quarterback; the Little Cyclones stalled after a 17-point barrage, taking a lead into halftime before falling in the second half. Ames fell like Gandalf and the Balrog, except far more lonely and helpless. The team skidded, scoreless for the remainder, to a loss. Then another. Then another. And another. What was happening? "Every game we lost, one side of the ball didn’t execute," junior linebacker Tony Rush said. "After Johnston scored that first touchdown, our offense shut down, and if it wasn’t our offense shutting down, it was our defense," he said, citing the 38-34 loss to Mason City in week three. "That third loss was the worst," senior Luke Haverkamp said. "After those first two losses, it still seemed like we could still recover, but after the third one, it just seemed like we couldn’t, and the fourth loss was a continuation of that." Then Ames switched quarterbacks. Senior quarterback Will Frantzen moved to wide receiver, and junior Kyle Anderson threw him the rock- ten times. He threw other people the rock- eight times. He handed junior Corey Thompson the rock- 30 times. People started to think Anderson was the rock. Haverkamp said the difference was noticeable even before the game. "People were excited; in tackling drills they were going all out and not worrying about getting hurt. They were ready to really go for it." That night Ames defeated a 7th-ranked Waukee team led by Chad Owens, known to some as "Michael Vick," by ten points to improve to 1-5. Rush compared playing against Owens to being at a track race. "He juked me like seven times," he said. It looked as though things were finally clicking, just in time for a four-win streak and a berth at substate. However, the 5th-ranked Marshalltown Bobcats loomed ahead on the schedule, and Little Cyclone players knew that the true test of the new team would come in that game. The test proved too much for the Little Cyclones, as the Marshalltown pass offense dismantled the little Cyclones, leading the Bobcats to a 60-35 victory. Despite this thrashing, however, hopes remained alive for a 3-6 berth at substate, and with Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson and Newton the remaining teams on the schedule, the Little Cyclones figured to have an easy road ahead and could only hope that other teams’ losses would line up in a way that they would make the tournament. After enduring the long bus ride to Council Bluffs, Ames went on to take the first step towards accomplishing this goal, defeating the Jackets 45-20. The Little Cyclones followed this up with another convincing win over Newton 42-6 to finish the regular season at 3-6. In conjunction with Sioux City North’s Thursday loss to Valley, Ames qualified for substate with a 3-6 record. Facing the number one, undefeated Maroons of Dowling Catholic, the Little Cyclones fought valiantly, nearly pulling off a stunning upset. However, big plays proved Ames’s downfall, as the season ended with a 31-27 defeat. However, the players left the season a new team thanks largely in part to a mid-season quarterback switch, and if the season had to end prematurely, it couldn’t have ended better.