(Photos by Michael Fischer)
A week after a sound defeat to Emmetsburg caused by self-inflicted mistakes, Spencer dominated both sides of the ball and committed just one turnover as it routed the No. 10-ranked Orabs, 42-14, to earn the season's first win.
The Tigers piled up 445 rushing yards and held Sheldon to just 31 yards of offense in the second half in the victory.
"We did two things that we didn't do last week - we protected the football and played physical on defense," Spencer head coach Jim Tighe said. "Our defense tackled better and got a good pass rush. Overall I was very pleased. And a lot of guys contributed."
Spencer junior quarterback Matt Finnern racked up 180 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and threw from another score as the Tigers got out to an early lead with three touchdowns in the first quarter. Finnern scored on runs of 44 and 34 to take a 21-7 lead.
Hunter Cushman broke the game's biggest play to get the Tigers rolling - a 90-yard touchdown run down the sidelines on Spencer's second play of the game. Cushman, who played the majority of the game at defensive back, finished with 114 yards on just four carries.
After Cushman's run, Sheldon drove the ball 75 yards inside the Tiger 5-yard-line but lost a fumble in the backfield, ending the threat. Spencer would commit its only turnover a few minutes later by a fumble at midfield, the fifth lost fumble on the season for the Tigers.
Sheldon QB Chris Balster connected with Nathan Oostra on the first play after the Spencer fumble for a 48-yard touchdown pass to knot the game at 7-7.
"I'm thrilled with both our offensive and defensive lines. I felt that was a strength coming into the season and I thought they played well last week, even though it might not have looked like it with the score," Tighe said. "Offensively, we put in a ton of reps this week in practice, and Matt (Finnern) did a great job of reading their defense."
Sheldon would make it 21-14 in the second quarter after a 63-yard drive, featuring 54 rushing yards by Balster. After Balster's 3-yard rushing touchdown with 10:43 left in the second quarter, Spencer would hold the senior to just 14 more yards in the game.
Spencer's fourth score came right before the half following a 12-play, 80-yard drive that drained the last four minutes from the clock. Finnern would find Phil Huisinga in the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds left in the first half, giving Spencer a 28-14 halftime lead.
The third quarter didn't provide any scoring as both teams traded punts for the first five possessions. On Sheldon's second possession, Balster went down and limped off the field after a Blaine Johnson sack. Balster would return to the game but the Sheldon offense would only total 31 yards in the second half on five possessions.
"In the second half, they made some good adjustments. Our job was to just settle down and simplify things," Tighe said.
When the Tigers got the ball with 4:03 left in the third, they went a 17-play, 88-yard scoring drive featuring runs from Finnern, Cushman and Brady Illg, and an 11-yard pass to Cody Mowery which converted a 3rd-and-9. Finnern would cap the drive with a 2-yard run on 4th-and-goal to make it 35-14.
Finnern would rush for another 31-yard gain on the Tigers' final possession and score another 2-yard touchdown for the 42-14 final.
In addition to the 100-yard games by Finnern and Cushman, senior Austin Lauck carried the ball 17 times for 87 yards, and Illg gained 45 yards on nine carries. Mowery caught two passes for 21 yards as Finnern was 3-for-4 for 33 yards and a TD.
The Tigers totaled 478 yards and gained 17 first downs.
Sheldon was led by Balster, who rushed 16 times for 87 yards and a touchdown, and completed 2-of-7 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Oostra caught both passes, and Hunter McDonald gained 37 yards rushing on seven carries.
Spencer (1-1) will begin district play next week when it hosts Storm Lake at Dale Norton Field.