WARRENSBURG -- Cerro Gordo-Bement used every millisecond, plus some, of the 6 minutes, 53 seconds it had left when it started the game's last drive, trailing for the first time.
At the end, it was yards the Broncos needed -- about 6, although it was tough to be exact during the frantic final seconds of their season opener.
Dalton Grohler completed a halfback pass on the second to last play, an idea the Broncos drew up in the dirt during the preceding timeout. Then, with the clock ticking, quarterback Tim Winters called for the snap as the horn sounded on the final play. He swung a pass to Grohler in the flat, with space in front of him. He made one defender miss and bounced to the outside.
After 14 yards, a Warrensburg-Latham defender pushed him out at the 6.
The Cardinals could breathe, winning 28-22 on Friday.
"If you were to draw up a situation you want in that situation," Cerro Gordo coach Andy Kerley said, "that's what you wanted.
"It's not 6 yards. That's a matter of if that kid is two inches further to the middle of the field, Grohler doesn't have to juke as hard. He's in the end zone."
It completed the Cardinals' comeback from down 16-7 at halftime and 22-14 with 4:13 to go in the third quarter.
The Cardinals had three drives in the second half and scored on all three, despite Cerro Gordo dominating time of possession -- Warrensburg ran 17 plays over 8:12 in the second half, while Cerro Gordo ran 33 over 15:48.
It was the formula the Broncos wanted, playing with the lead, but they were burned one too many times by Warrensburg's game-breaker at quarterback, junior Dionte Lewis.
Lewis was starting his first game in his career at quarterback, shifting over from being a running back last year.
He rushed 19 times for 105 yards and four touchdowns.
He was counting his bumps, bruises, cuts and neck pains on the field after the game. The one thing he wasn't expecting was being out of shape.
"I expected all of it but my legs cramping," said Lewis, who was 3-for-6 passing for 46 yards. "I didn't know how to deal with the pressure on passing, but the run game was strong and that's what got us to win."
He ran for a 30-yard touchdown in the first half but couldn't get the Cardinals into the end zone from the 5-yard line in the waning seconds of the first half.
But he came ready in the second half, opening it up with a 70-yard kickoff return to set up a 10-yard touchdown run.
His twin brother, Diondre, starting at running back for the first time ever after a move from wide receiver, got into the end zone to bring the Cardinals within two points, 22-20, to end the third quarter.
Then, Dionte helped take advantage of a Cerro Gordo mistake.
Grohler carried the ball on 4th-and-2, early in the fourth quarter, picked up the yardage he needed and kept chugging.
He was wrapped up by a group of Cardinals, and one ripped the ball out of his arms. Mason Terneus recovered it and took it into Broncos territory.
"Five times out of 10, he's going to break that because they haven't blown the whistle and kids will fall off of him," Kerley said of Grohler's run. "The other five times, that happens.
"About the time you tell him just go down is when he breaks one."
You have free articles remaining.
Dionte Lewis brought Warrensburg to a first down at the 10-yard line. Diondre lost three yards on the next play.
Then, Dionte was sacked by two Broncos for a loss of five yards. But with him wrapped up and standing up, JR Menezes' hands got around his facemask and ripped the helmet off for a penalty.
On the next play, Dionte cruised 9 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
"Cerro Gordo did a good job of getting to him, pressuring him and making things difficult," Warrensburg coach Scott Godfrey said. "That's the first live action he's seen to throw a ball. I think he settled down in the second half, and what saved us is we were able to run the ball."
The other new QB
Dionte Lewis wasn't the only first-year starting quarterback. Cerro Gordo's Tim Winters got everything thrown at him.
He was thrown into a time crunch on the last possession and made big plays. On the drive, he fumbled a snap on 4th-and-1, rolled forward on it and kept the chains moving. He completed passes of 15 and 21 yards to Matt Guffey to covert back-to-back third downs.
"Timmy's a cool kid. He doesn't get too riled up too often, and it paid off," Kerley said. "I didn't know we'd catch the ball like we did. I don't honestly know if Noah Hendricks has ever caught a ball in a varsity game.
Winter's first completion was to Hendricks, a tight end. It was on 3rd-and-7, and Hendricks took the quick slant 59 yards for a touchdown.
The quarterback, a lefty, finished 7-of-12 for 131 yards.
No surprise there
Dionte Lewis had a good night at quarterback, showing why Godfrey wanted to move him there -- to put the ball in his hands every play.
Lewis never came off the field, playing linebacker and had kickoff and punt return duties. Godfrey was surprised the Broncos kicked to him. He wasn't surprised by what he did.
He returned a punt 59 yards to the Cerro Gordo 27 to set up the Cardinals' first touchdown, his 30-yarder.
He opened the second half with a 70-yard kickoff return.
"At practice, it doesn't matter what it is -- scout team, varsity team -- we (Dionte and Diondre) always want to be in the back and practice taking it back," Dionte Lewis said. "That's our favorite thing to do."
Losing on penalties
The Broncos have a veteran offensive line this season, but it didn't look like it at times. They had five false start penalties and three others -- illegal motion, snap violation and a block in the back.
Warrensburg won that battle. The Cardinals only had one false start.
"We try to once a week do a turnover circuit. If we have some guys that secured the tackle, we tell them to rip at it. I think the film's going to show somebody was doing a good job of ripping at it, the way it popped out." - Godfrey on the strip of Grohler in the fourth quarter