HARLAN, Iowa — The basics came tough for Council Bluffs Lewis Central. Everything seemed to work for Harlan Community.
Indeed, Harlan’s streak against L.C. is alive and well.
In an Iowa Class 3-A, District 1 matchup with plenty of postseason implications, the No. 10 Cyclones wore down the No. 7 Titans 35-10 Friday night at Merrill Field. The win is Harlan’s 17th straight in the annual series dating back to 1996.
Lewis Central (5-2, 2-2) hung tough through the first quarter. Quarterback Austin Simmons hit Nathan Pettepier for a 22-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.
From there, it was all Cyclones (6-1, 3-1).
“We played well throughout the ballgame,” Harlan coach Curt Bladt said. “They are a good football team, and I’ll tell you what, they threw some bombs on us. But we were able to survive the attack and get out with the win.”
Quarterback Adam Juhl was a big reason why. The junior dissected the Titans’ secondary to the tune of three touchdowns and 222 yards on 15-of-24 passing. He also scored on a 2-yard sneak on the game’s opening drive.
Bladt said it was a night-and-day difference for Juhl, who went 20 for 37 and threw three interceptions in Harlan’s recent loss at Creston.
“Last week he had a terrible game, and tonight he looked like gold,” Bladt said. “That was the difference. He was a little bit calmer and he was able to stand in there and get the job done for us tonight.”
Harlan reached the end zone on three of its first four possessions to start the evening. The Cyclones began with a 13-play drive that culminated with Juhl’s plunge across the goal line.
After trading punts, Lewis Central came back with an 85-yard drive on five snaps. Simmons hit Luke Harrison for 29 yards on a catch-and-run, and Alex Martin scampered 33 more on a pitch to set up Simmon’s 22-yard fade to Pettepier for an over-the-shoulder grab near the front left pylon.
The Cyclones countered with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns. Senior running back Chris Hopkins capped a drive with a 3-yard run between the tackles, and Juhl found David Ratigan in the end zone on the next possession despite an L.C. pass-interference penalty.
Lewis Central turned the ball over on downs at the Harlan 3-yard line 3 minutes before halftime when the Harlan defense stuffed Luke Sutherland’s dive up the middle. The visitors ended the half with a 23-yard field goal from Caleb Shudak on their last possession.
Titans coach Jim Duggan said fundamentals like blocking, tackling and catching abandoned his players when they needed them most. L.C. finished 3 of 14 on third-down conversion attempts.
“We just had too many strategical breakdowns on offense and defense,” Duggan said. “We thought we came to play, but obviously with the way we played, we weren’t mentally ready to go. Just way too many mistakes.”
Despite outgaining L.C. just 212 to 207 at the half, Harlan enjoyed a 21-10 lead.
Nate Kloewer hauled in a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter — from distances of 26 and 22 yards — to complete the scoring. Senior running back Chris Hopkins paced Harlan’s rushing attack with 71 yards on 19 attempts.
The Titans, who have lost to Harlan by an average of more than 25 points during their slide in the series, totaled 257 yards from scrimmage to Harlan’s 360. Simmons went 8 of 14 for 125 yards, and Martin carried 13 times for 72 yards.
“They were way more motivated than we were, and that’s the bottom line,” Duggan said. “They were much hungrier, and it showed out there.”
Harlan also suffered a number of injuries Friday, including junior Connor Clayton (knee), who was starting at cornerback with both of the Cyclones’ regular starters already out of action.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do this week,” Bladt said. “We’ve got to get some people ready to play. I feel like we’re running a (darn) triage unit over here.”
CB Lewis Central (5-2, 2-2)......................7 3 0 0—10
Harlan (6-1, 3-1)........................7 14 14 0—35
H: Adam Juhl 2 run (Ethan Knudson kick)
LC: Nathan Pettepier 22 pass from Austin Simmons (Caleb Shudak kick)
H: Chris Hopkins 3 run (Knudson kick)
H: David Ratigan 30 pass from Juhl (Knudson kick)
LC: Shudak 23 FG
H: Nate Kloewer 26 pass from Juhl (Knudson kick)
H: Kloewer 22 pass from Juhl (Knudson kick)