Mistakes doom Nevada in showdown with Pella: Cubs denied district title after 35-7 loss

Joe Randleman
Nevada Journal
Nevada's Caleb Kooiker (6) goes low to bring down Pella's Aidan Pollock during the Cubs' 35-7 loss to the Little Dutch Friday at Cub Stadium in Nevada. The loss denied Nevada the Class 3A District 7 title, but the Cubs (5-2) get a shot at redemption this Friday when they host Perry (0-7) in the first round of the 3A playoffs.

NEVADA - Nevada found out how difficult life can be at the top in Class 3A football when the Cubs took on Pella for the Class 3A District 7 championship Friday at Cub Stadium.

After sharing a 2A district championship last year Nevada found itself playing for another title this year despite having to go up another class. It showed the strength and progress of the program to achieve that feat.

But on Friday the Cubs found out they have a lot of work to do if they want to reach elite status in 3A after suffering a 35-7 loss to the Little Dutch.

Nevada (5-2, 3-2) lost three fumbles and each one led to a Pella touchdown. The Cubs also struggled on special teams, giving up a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked punt that was run back for six.

“Good teams are going to make you pay when you make mistakes,” Kleeman said. “Unfortunately the turnovers, penalties and big errors in coverage ultimately made this game into the score that it was.”

Nevada forced Pella to punt on the opening drive of the game. But then the Cubs fumbled and gave the ball to the Little Dutch at the Cub 10.

The Nevada defense stood tall, forcing fourth down. But on fourth-and-2 Pella’s Ryan Mace found Grant Nelson open in the end zone for a touchdown.

The Cub defense rose to the occasion again following the second Pella turnover. They forced a third-and-21 on the Little Dutch 44.

But on the third down play the Cubs broke down with some sloppy tackling. Pella’s Nolan Clayberg spun out of two tackles and raced 56 yards for a touchdown. 

Bad tackling came back to haunt Nevada again after the Cub offense stalled in its next drive. Nevada was forced to punt and Pella’s Aidan Pollock slipped a couple of tackles and ran it back 68 yards to give Pella a 21-0 lead 22 seconds into the second quarter.

“It really spiraled on us,” Kleeman said. “Pella did a great job of capitalizing and making us pay. That’s what good teams do.”

Nevada had its best drive of the first half just before halftime. The Cubs moved down to the Pella 17, but a costly penalty put them out of field goal range and then disaster struck on special teams for the second time when Kody Huisman blocked a Cub punt and ran it back 58 yards for a touchdown.

Pella took a 35-0 lead early in the third quarter following Nevada’s third fumble over the game. Mace found Preston Rowe over the middle for a 31-yard touchdown pass.

“We’re a good football team too,” Kleeman said. “But we have to play cleaner football. Some of that is our youth and some of that is the fact that we’re still learning how to compete in these types of games.”

Nevada did finish the game with some positive momentum and a history-making moment. With 7:49 to go in the fourth quarter the Cubs got on the board on a 1-yard Caden Jones touchdown run.

The touchdown was the 21st of the season for Jones, breaking the school single-season record for touchdowns.

Nevada's Caden Jones embraces offensive lineman Jack Chandler after scoring on 1-yard touchdown run during the fourth quarter of the Cubs' loss to Pella Friday. It was Jones' 21st touchdown of the season, a new school single-season mark.

“A record is a record,” Jones said. “It felt amazing.”

The senior running back was quick to share the glory with his offensive line of center Colton Leslie, guards Marshal Sheldahl and Jack Chandler and tackles Gage Maiefski and Aden Ballard.

“They are amazing,” Jones said. “That’s the only line I’d ever want to run behind. I love those guys. They are the reason I’m at 21.”

Jones finished with 93 yards rushing on 22 carries. He went over 1,000 yards on the season.

As a team Nevada actually outgained Pella in total yards, 208 to 171. The Cubs didn’t give up an extended scoring drive all game, showing they had the capability to hang with a team like Pella minus the mistakes.

“We’re a better team than that,” Kleeman said. “I really believe that our best football is ahead of us. But at some point we’ve got to try to clean that stuff up if we expect to win in this type of environment.”

Nevada's Seth Brown shoves Pella receiver Jason Knox near the sidelines to break up a pass during the Cubs' 35-7 loss to the Little Dutch Friday in Nevada. Brown later had an interception to prevent a Pella scoring drive.

Cael Franzen had 7.5 tackles, Ayden Rhodes six plus a tackle for loss, Caleb Kooiker 4.5 and James Edwards and Gavin Melohn 2.5 apiece to lead a stout Nevada defensive effort. Melohn also was credited with assisting on a tackle for loss.

Seth Brown had the biggest play for Nevada on defense, intercepting a pass in the end zone to thwart a Pella drive late in the game.

On offense quarterback Blake Bottorf complemented Jones by completing 8 of 16 passes for 78 yards. Rhodes had four catches for 40 yards and an 18-yard run and Caeden DaSilva made four grabs for 38 yards.

Up next for Nevada is the first round of the 3A playoffs. Due to COVID-19 the extended playoffs will include every team in the state this year.

“I think it’s exciting,” Kleeman said. “Everybody’s starting a whole new season this week.  We’ve got a lot of football yet to be played. I’m excited to see where this team goes moving forward.”

Nevada will host Perry (0-7) in Pod 14. The game will start at 7 p.m. at Cub Stadium.

“I still think our best football is ahead of us,” Kleeman said. “We have a good football team, we have great kids and we’re going to try to finish strong and make a run into the playoffs.”

Pella ended 5-0 in the district and improved to 5-2 heading into the playoffs. Mace completed 4 of 10 passes for 59 yards and two scores, Clayberg ran for 72 yards on offense and recovered a fumble on defense and Nelson and Caleb Briggs also recovered one fumble apiece for the Little Dutch against the Cubs.

 

Pella 35, Nevada 7

P   14   14   7   0 - 35

N     0     0   0   7 - 7

 

Scoring

 

First quarter

P - Grant Nelson 2 pass from Ryan Mace (Silas Vanderhoff kick), 6:07.

P - Nolan Clayberg 56 run (Vanderhoff kick), 0:11.

Second quarter

P - Aidan Pollock 68 punt return (Vanderhoff kick), 11:38.

P - Kody Huisman 58 blocked punt return (Vanderhoff kick), 1:09.

Third quarter

P - Preston Rowe 31 pass from Mace (Vanderhoff kick), 10:27.

Fourth quarter

N - Caden Jones 1 run (Max Hoffman kick), 7:49.

 

Team statistics P N

Rushes-yards 21-112 35-130

Passing 4-11-1 8-16-0

Passing yards 59 78

Total yards 181 208

Fumbles lost 0 3

Punts-average 3-47.0 2-36.0

 

Individual statistics

Rushing: P - Nolan Clayberg 5-72, Gavin Norton 7-20, Ryan Mace 2-9, Nick DeJong 2-4, Aidan Pollock 2-3, Kody Huisman 1-2, Blake Meyer 2-2. N - Caden Jones 22-93, Ayden Rhodes 1-18, Seth Brown 3-10, Blake Bottorf 6-5, Noah Mills 2-4, Gavin Melohn 1-0. 

Passing: P - Mace 4-10-0-59, Meyer 0-1-1-0. N - Blake Bottorf 8-16-0-78.

Receiving: P - Preston Rowe 1-31, Jason Knox 1-27, Grant Nelson 1-2, Pollock 1-(-1). N - Rhodes 4-40, Caeden DaSilva 4-38.

Tackles: P - Huisman 7, Nelson 6.5, Clayberg 4.5, Levi Roose 3.5, Joe Jansen 3.5. N - Cael Franzen 7.5, Rhodes 6, Caleb Kooiker 4.5, Melohn 2.5, James Edwards 2.5

Sacks: P - Roose.

Fumble recoveries: P - Clayberg, Nelson, Caleb Briggs.

Interceptions: N - Brown.