—by Roger Fritz

The Roland-Story Norsemen football team showed a marked improvement from weeks one and two, but they were still unable to come up with a victory in week three, as they fell to the North Polk Comets 29-20 Friday in Story City. It was the 2A District 7 opener for both teams. The Norse dropped to 0-3 on the season. The Comets raised their record to 3-0.

The Norsemen started the game strong, forcing a three and out on the Comets’ first drive. The Norsemen went on offense and managed to march 55 yards down field in nine plays. But a fumbled exchange between quarterback Zach Hovick and running back Andrew Schlatter put the ball in the Comets’ hands.

But the Norse defense again forced a three and out. The Comets needed to punt from the end zone, and Roland-Story was able to receive the punt and return it to good field position at the Comet 37.

The Norsemen immediately took advantage. Josiah Soderstrum took the hand off and went around the right end. He was stood up about three yards past the line of scrimmage, but was able to bounce out to the side, and took it along the right sideline for a 37 yard touchdown run. The PAT failed, but the Norse had their first lead of the season at 6-0.

The lead was short-lived, however, as three plays later, the Comets hit on a 67 yard TD strike. They also missed their PAT, so the game was tied at 6-6 with 3:31 left in the first quarter.

The 2nd quarter also saw both teams score a touchdown. The Norse again scored first with a 10 play, 60 yard drive, capped by a 15 yard touchdown throw from Hovick to Blake Morgan. The two had also hooked up earlier for the second biggest play of the drive; a 12 yard completion. The scoring strike was a flag route, and Morgan was able to keep his tippy-toes in the back corner of the end zone for the touchdown. The Norse went for two, and Hovick again went to the air and found Charlie Messer at the goal line for the deuce.

North Polk again responded to the Norsemen’s score, and went 60 yards on nine plays, capped by a 5 yard TD plunge with 1:09 left in the first half. Their conversion attempt failed, and the Norsemen went to the break with a 14-12 lead.

Roland-Story got the ball to start the second half, but the drive ended when a North Polk linebacker slipped in front of a slant route pass, and intercepted the ball. The Comets took advantage and marched 23 yards in five plays, scoring on a 5 yard touchdown pass, to take a 19-14 lead.

The Norsemen came back with an impressive drive of their own, however. They went 55 yards over 11 plays, but on a passing attempt to the end zone, Hovick was again intercepted. The Norsemen defense was unable to respond, and surrendered an eight play, 80 yard touchdown drive by the Comets, which put them in a 26-14 lead with 10:38 left in the game.

But the Norse weren’t dead just yet. On the Comets’ next drive, one of their running backs had a nice 12 yard run. But at the conclusion of the run, the ball was knocked away, and floated right into the hands of Zach Hovick. He was able to advance the ball to the North Polk 45. The Roland-Story offense got back on the field and drove the 45 yards in eight plays, and capped it off with a 2 yard Soderstrum touchdown run. Soderstrum also had the big play of the drive, a 22 yard gainer on a screen pass from Hovick. The PAT was no good, and the Norse trailed 26-20 with 6 minutes to play in the game.

The Comets then put together the drive that won the game, as they marched the ball 70 yards over five minutes, and capped it with a 29 yard field goal to take the two-score lead, 29-20, with a minute to play. The Norsemen were unable to score in the final minute, as the 29-20 score held up for the final.

Unlike the previous two games, both teams’ offensive outputs were similar. North Polk gained 307 yards on 50 plays, while the Norse advanced 301 on 64 plays. North Polk’s output was 199 yards on the ground on 42 rushes, while going 5-8 in the air for 108 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Fifteen different Norsemen stopped a Comet on the night. Cole Birchmier and Charlie Messer were the leading tacklers.

The Norsemen gained 181 yards on the ground on 41 rushes. Soderstrum gained 90 on 14 carries, with two touchdowns, Blake Morgan ran a dozen times for 37 yards, Hovick ran 10 times for 36, and Andrew Schlatter ran four times for 15 yards.

Via the air, Zach Hovick went 13-23 for 120 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Charlie Messer was the big target, catching six passes for 42 yards, including a two point conversion. Soderstrum caught three passes for 38 yards, Morgan caught two for 26, including a touchdown. Trent Elliott and Sam Miller each caught a ball, for 11 and three yards, respectively.

Next up for the Norsemen will be the South Hardin Tigers. The Tigers posted their first win of the year with a 35-19 win over East Marshall in their district opener. That was the first varsity win for the Tigers in nearly two years, as they had to cancel their 2012 season due to a lack of upper class men playing football. In other 2A D7 action last Friday, Gilbert defeated Nevada, and West Marshall knocked off PCM.

This Friday’s game is in Eldora and begins at 7:30.