Cheri Chester/for the NT

Cheri Chester/for the NT

CAM’s Lane Spieker breaks away from a tackle attempt and looks to dodge another as he goes for a big game in the second half of the Cougars’ state championship game vs. Easton Valley. The Cougars came from behind to win the school’s first state title, 42-40, Thursday, Nov. 18, at the UNI-Dome, Cedar Falls.

“Indescribable, man!”

That was the first thought from Lane Spieker, CAM’s do-everything, superstud quarterback after Thursday afternoon’s Iowa eight-man state championship game against Easton Valley.

And it was surely words well spoken, especially when you know that the best things in life are well-earned.

Down by two scores for the first time all season, the Cougars found a way to win and withstand.

Taking the snaps for the drive of a lifetime, up 36-33 with under four minutes left, Spieker oversaw the drive of the season, using eight plays over 3-3/4 minutes to give his team a two-score lead.

The punch-in from 23 yards out symbolized everything he’s done so well: shifting and pushing until finding the opening, then getting out into open air.

It was a needed touchdown, as the River Hawks came right back with a 45-yard pass play, Gruver brother-to-Gruver brother, quarterback Conor to wide receiver Aidan, for the score that brought them to within two, at 42-40.

Overcoming some late dramatics, with two bad snaps that put the Cougars at third-and-28, some strong defense as Conor Gruver’s long fourth-down pass went incomplete with 52 seconds left finally iced the game away.

And after the rare taking of a knee by the Cougars, CAM came away with their first-ever state championship, 42-40, at the UNI-Dome.

The football trophy, won on the Cougars’ first trip to Cedar Falls’ UNI-Dome, is the first team sport trophy for the school since consolidation in the 1990s.

“We knew we were going to have to come up with some big plays and we came up with a big stop. We made a few mistakes but we had to deal with it all game. The line did a great job and making holes for me, and I was just doing all that I could,” said Spieker.

All that he could was just another game, just another 465 total yards, 222 with the feet on 29 carries, 243 yards through the air on 7-of-13 passing with a pair of touchdowns.

Thing was, the Cougars didn’t lead for the first time until late in the third quarter. With 1:06 left in the frame, Spieker rifled off a long pass to Cade Ticknor, one of the biggest targets all year, and it ended up a 50-yard scoring play.

Even that play didn’t come without drama, what with some laundry on the field. As it turned out, it was a double penalty for the River Hawks, and it was a face mask call that was taken. The two-point run by Ticknor was good, and it was 36-33 Cougars.

The River Hawks could have made it a short-lived lead. After trading possessions, Conor Gruver drove Easton Valley on a drive that took 3:23 off the clock and ended at the 11-yard line. On fourth-and-1, the River Hawks decided to go for it rather than kick a game-tying field goal, but EV running back Charlie Simpson was thrown back for a yard loss by Ticknor, and then came the drive that gave the Cougars a much-needed insurance touchdown.

The Cougars had to overcome some mistakes in the early going. On the game’s third play, the River Hawk defense jarred the ball loose from Spieker’s grasp, and five plays and 34 yards later, Gruver found Andin Farrell for the game’s first score, with 8:47 left.

Ticknor’s 48-yard run in response put CAM behind by just two, at 8-6 just 53 seconds later, but EV answered right back with a pair of Gruver passes, Aidan Gruver for 31 yards and Hayden Felkey for 6 yards. Four River Hawks had touchdowns on the game, as they took a 27-22 halftime lead.

Sam Foreman took a 65-yard pass into the end zone to make it 21-14, before Spieker’s first rushing touchdown – a 39-yarder that was the first of three for the Cougar senior – established the halftime score. Ticknor had 80 yards rushing and 57 receiving that helped with his two touchdowns.

Then, after the River Hawks took the second-half kickoff to go 49 yards in 11 plays to take a 33-22 lead with 7:15 left in the third, the Cougars started to take control and figure out Gruver’s passing game. Spieker had a 48 yard run before Ticknor’s touchdown reception gave the Cougars the lead for good.

Sam Foreman added a touchdown to go with his team-best four catches and 149 yards receiving.

“These kids are pretty resilient,” said CAM coach Barry Bower, who won the biggest trophy of the year for his alma mater. “Easton Valley’s a good football team but so are we. Going back and forth, it was a good game to watch.

“Hats off to Easton Valley but a state championship, we’ll take that too,” he said. “To bring back a state championship to your hometown is something special. You always dream about this moment and (when it happens) it’s something special.”

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to sports@ant-news.com or phone (712) 243-2624.

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