Aanestad's Late Pick Helps West High Hold Off Pleasant Valley in District Opener

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Susan Harman

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – Pleasant Valley had one last chance to tie or win its game against West High Friday night.

Trailing by six points with 6.4 seconds left the Spartans had the ball on the Trojan 24 after having frantically driven from their own 20 in just 1 minute, 45.6 seconds.

Quarterback Max Slaven dropped back and threw the ball toward the end zone where West senior Noah Aanestad was playing free safety.

“We made some mistakes when they were driving down, but we knew we just had to stay calm, stay composed and do what we needed to do,” Aanestad said.

“I wasn’t matched up on a man. I was in a zone. I saw the quarterback step up, and he kind of just threw it right to me. It wasn’t anything special.”

The big crowd that held its collective breath would beg to differ.

Aanestad stepped in front of the intended receiver and cradled the precious interception to preserve West’s hard-earned 20-14 victory over Pleasant Valley in the 4A District 4 opener for both teams.           

“That’s just such a team win; it feels awesome,” Aanestad said.

“We just had to do our job,” defensive lineman Landon Green said of the final play. “We were focused, and we were ready.”

West improved to 4-1, 1-0 and took a big step toward its goal of winning the district. It will likely be heavily favored in its remaining district games.

Pleasant Valley is 1-4, 0-1 with all four losses coming to ranked teams.

Turnovers were critical to West’s success. Aanestad recovered a fumble  in the third quarter that lead to a touchdown and a 17-7 lead.

An interception by Nick Biancuzzo led to a fourth-quarter John Jasek field goal that bumped the lead to 20-14.

Those plays were critical because the offense was unable to sustain drives all game long. Penalties and key plays that lost yardage made it difficult to string together first downs.

The Trojans had just six first downs in the first half and couldn’t establish a running attack.

“That’s been our story all year,” West coach Garrett Hartwig said. “We have to get that corrected.”

A fumble on a hook-and-ladder play late in the first half enabled Pleasant Valley to exploit a short field and tie the game at 7 with 42 seconds left. But West drove to the Pleasant Valley 24 and Jasek kicked a 41-yard field goal to end the half and give the Trojans a 10-7 lead.

“We run the 2-minute drill every single day in practice,” Hartwig said. “Our guys are used to it.”

When West took the 17-7 lead following Aanestad’s recovery it looked like the Trojans were in control.

But the Spartans sprang little-used Caden Kipper 61 yards straight up the middle for a touchdown to cut the lead to 17-14 heading to the fourth quarter.

“We were watching our assignments and we didn’t do our jobs,” Green said.

“That’s the option game,” Hartwig said.

Except for that play, admittedly a big play, West controlled the running game and a quick, slippery quarterback. But Pleasant Valley passed more than expected and involved seven different receivers.

“I think they did a good job in the pass game,” Aanestad said. “They had some routes we weren’t really anticipating, but we worked through it throughout the game and made adjustments.”

Sophomore Marcus Morgan started the game at quarterback and played into the fourth quarter before taking a big hit and being removed in favor of senior Joey Kuehn.

Hartwig said that Morgan, who threw for 204 yards, is all right and could have returned to the game.

                                                PV                     ICW

First downs                             16                        12

Rushing-yards                       40-141               35-127

Comp-Att-Int                        15-26-2              11-22-0

Passing-yards                        138                      230

Punts-avg.                               6-31                    4-38

Fumbles-lost                           1-1                       2-1

Penalties-yards                       4-40                     5-52

Pleasant Valley         0   7   7  0 – 14

West High                  0  10  7  3 – 20

ICW – Owen McAreavy 1 run (John Jasek kick)

PV – Max Slaven 11 run (Nathan Hamilton kick)

ICW – Jasek 41 field goal

ICW – Landon Green 4 run (Jasek kick)

PV – Caden Kipper 61 run (Hamilton kick)

ICW – Jasek 28 field goal

Individual statistics

RUSHING – PV: Caden Kipper 19-112, Max Slaven 16-25, Cade Collier 1-2, Brennan Sarver 3-2, Team 1-0. ICW: Peter Breitbach 8-53, Landon Green 7-31, Cole Mabry 5-20, Marcus Morgan 7-13, Noah Aanestad 2-8, Owen McAreavy 3-6, Jason Strunk 1-1, Joey Kuehn 1-(-2), team 1-(-3).

PASSING – PV: Max Slaven 15-26-2 138. ICW: Marcus Morgan 10-17-0 204, Joey Kuehn 1-5-0-26.

RECEIVING – PV: Brennan Sarver 6-56, Ben Royer 2-42, Cade Collier 2-10, Kellen Hornbuckle 2-9, Peyton Lindmark 1-8, George Venzke 1-7, Maxwell Stoos 1-6. ICW: Jalen Gaudet 3-104, Justin Thomas 4-99, Noah Aanestad 2-16, Owen McAreavy 1-6, Team 1-5.

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