How Nevada High football overcame a rough first half to beat Ballard for the first time since 1999

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

For the third week in a row Nevada had a rough first half when the Cubs faced rival Ballard on Friday. 

The fifth-ranked Cubs were down 13-7 coming out of the locker room Friday night. The previous week they held a slim 21-14 lead at the half over a winless Gilbert team and two weeks earlier they trailed Hampton-Dumont-CAL at the break, 8-7.

"When you are having success sometimes people expect you to have the game in hand by half," Nevada head coach Andrew Kleeman said. "That is hard to do, especially when playing well-coached teams and rivalry games.  We all want to be successful every play, but the reality is we have to face adversity and respond appropriately."  

On all three occasions Nevada stepped up to the challenge. The Cubs won the second half by a combined 87-7 margin over the three games, defeating Ballard by 21 (34-13), Gilbert by 42 (56-14) and HDC by 24 (38-14).

"There really isn't anything that we do differently when we have had slow starts," Kleeman said. "The key is to stay calm and focus on doing our jobs."

The Nevada football team celebrated its first victory over Ballard since 1999 with a 34-13 victory Friday at Rich Strouse Field in Huxley. The Cubs came up big when it mattered, outscoring Ballard 28-0 in the second half to come back from a 13-7 halftime deficit and remain unbeaten at 6-0.

During Friday's game the Cubs took advantage of a big kick return from Drew Robinson and clutch fourth-down run by Cason Stevenson to set up a James Edwards touchdown run that quickly erased Ballard's lead.

Another Edwards touchdown run put Nevada up 21-13.

"Offensively, we had to make some adjustments to our blocking schemes," Kleeman said. "Ballard had done a nice job of taking away some of the things we like to do."

A sensational 80-yard touchdown reception from Caeden DaSilva broke the game open.

"He is a special talent," Kleeman said. "Not only does he have great speed and acceleration, but he has a tremendous feel for the game with the ball in his hands. He also is a player that will fight for every yard possible. I'm glad he's on our team."

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Nevada's defense also turned things up a notch in the second half to help secure the first Cub victory over Ballard since 1999.

The defense was playing great until midway through the second quarter when a fourth-down run from Ballard's Eli Rouse resulted in an 85-yard touchdown. The Bombers put together another scoring drive right before the half to move in front.

But over the final two quarters Ballard could get very little going against a motivated Cub defense led by safety Caleb Kooiker and linebacker Cael Franzen. Kooiker and Franzen combined for 26 tackles on the night.

Safety Karter Beving and the Nevada defense pitched a shutout in the second half during No. 5 Nevada's 34-13 victory over Ballard Friday at Huxley.

"I thought we played really well defensively but gave up some big plays in the first half," Kleeman said. "We knew at halftime if we did our jobs, then we could continue to play good team defense."

More:How Nevada High School football's elite defense turned the program from pushover to powerhouse

The resounding response against a quality Bomber program showed just how much potential Nevada has. 

"You're going to get challenged by opponents when you are ranked and undefeated," Kleeman said. "We have to figure out what the opponent is doing and make adjustments.  Our kids have done a good job of staying the course and making necessary changes."

But playing great for one half won't cut it against the top talent in the state. Nevada has games against No. 10 Algona and No. 7 Humboldt coming up over the next two weeks.

The Cubs will likely need to maintain a high level of play for more than the final two quarters to get past the Bulldogs and Wildcats.

A big key in that will be the development of the offensive line. 

"As well as we have run the ball, we're getting different looks each week and that is not easy for an offensive line with limited experience," Kleeman said. "We really only returned one full-time starter from last season and he's playing a different position. We also have Carson Rhodes at tight end who is a first-year starter.  Our kids have had to adapt each game to different looks, and I'm very proud of how they continue to learn, make adjustments and play hard." 

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If the Cubs can take their run game to the next level and put four quarters together on both sides of the ball it will be tough for any team in 3A to beat them. They get a chance to see what they're made of this Friday versus Algona.

"I know our kids are going to be ready for this game," Kleeman said. "It's going to be two good teams on the field Friday night.  I expect a fun atmosphere at Cub Stadium."