CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa The Coe Kohawks were ousted from the NCAA Division III football playoffs Saturday afternoon because the opposing team's kicker was too laborious setting up for a field goal.
Truthfully, there were a lot of decisive plays in Elmhurst's 27-24 win at Clark Field. But perhaps the most decisive came early in the fourth quarter when the Bluejays had to call timeout because kicker David Tomis was tardy getting ready to boot a 24-yard chip shot.
The timeout gave Elmhurst Coach Tim Lester the time to consider rolling the dice and going for it instead, which he did. Quarterback Joe Furco threw a 7-yard TD to Corey Thonn on a slant pattern, and that was that.
No more scoring. No. 17 Elmhurst (10-1) moves on, and 10th-ranked Coe (10-1) moves out.
"That changed the scope of the game, really," Lester said. "David Tomis is a great field-goal kicker, but he takes forever to get lined up ... He was taking his own sweet time getting himself into the perfect position. It wasn't worth backing it up, so I used the timeout. Our defensive coordinator said 'Go for it, man. Go for it.' I didn't really have a good (play) call, but the timeout gave me enough time to think of a call."
Funny how, of all things, fourth-down conversions determined this back-and-forth affair. Not so funny if you were Coe.
The Kohawks rolled the dice themselves on 4th-and-3 from their own 32 with just over three minutes left and threw an incompletion. Elmhurst super back Scottie Williams then eked out a first down by the nose of the football on a fourth-down run that officially put Coe away.
"You look at fourth downs. They were 3 for 3, we were 0 for 3," said Coe Coach Steve Staker. "That might tell the tale right there."
These teams were virtually identical statistically, with Elmhurst gaining just 15 more yards (429-415). Williams had 196 yards and a touchdown but was offset by Brendan Leiran's 181 and a TD.
A 24-yard touchdown pass from Jared McNutt to Jared Kuehner put Coe ahead late in the third quarter, 24-20. The Kohawks recovered a fumble in Elmhurst territory on the ensuing possession but went three-and-out.
Another turning point in a game full of them.
"We just didn't take advantage of the opportunities they gave us," Leiran said.
"We didn't play our best game today," said Kuehner, who set school career reception and receiving TD records in the game. "We didn't convert when we could have. We had a three-and-out after a turnover, and that was huge. Big momentum swings."
This was a bitter defeat for a senior-dominated team that won Coe's first outright Iowa Conference championship and went unbeaten in the regular season for the first time since 1993. It thought it had a lengthy postseason run in it.
"We had no intentions of being done today," said defensive end Frank Weymiller."Looking back, it was a great season up to this point. We finally won that conference championship, and that was nice to do. But we had bigger goals than that. It really sucks to be done."