(File photo by Michael Fischer)
In Friday night's district tilt in Le Mars, the Tigers started quickly, as they've done the last three weeks, and took a 17-0 lead with about four minutes left in the second quarter. After a quick score, and another off a Spencer fumble, the Bulldogs were right back in the game, 17-14, at halftime.
The Bulldogs would score twice more in back-and-forth second half to complete the comeback and improve to 4-1 on the season and 2-1 in the district. Le Mars trailed Spencer 21-0 last year in the first half only to win 28-21. The Bulldogs got 207 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air from quarterback Levi Tebrink.
The Tigers, after three consecutive wins, fall to 3-2 on the season and 2-1 in the district.
Blake Altenhofen got on the board first with a 58-yard touchdown run to open up a 7-0 first-quarter lead. Mark Malm added a 39-yard field goal in the second quarter, and Matt Finnern scored on an 8-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 17-0 midway through the second quarter.
Le Mars got a big return and punched in its first score shortly after with Travis Kinney from two yards out. Spencer drove to the Le Mars 25-yard-line but lost its only fumble of the game with 1:27 left in the half. That was enough time for Tebrink and company to go 78 yards on 11 plays in just 1:08 to bring the score to 17-14.
Malik Rasch returned the ensuing kickoff all the way down to the Le Mars 16-yard-line but Malm would miss the 33-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
Le Mars continued the momentum with a score on its first drive, capped by a 17-yard pass from Tebrink to Gabe Rahn for a 21-17 lead.
"It was a really good game, I'm really proud of the guys in the way they competed," Spencer coach Jim Tighe said. "Every game, especially this one, has its ebbs and flows and momentum changes, and after they scored to start the second half and took the lead, it looked like they had all the momentum. Our guys did a great job of fighting back to take the lead."
Spencer used a fumbled punt return, recovered by Cody Brigham, to regain the lead after another 8-yard touchdown run by Finnern, his ninth of the season. Le Mars and Tebrink would answer again, however, with another scoring drive finished off by the third passing touchdown, this one to Chris Hatting in what turned out to be the deciding score.
In Spencer's best chance to take the lead late in the fourth, Brady Illg was stopped on a 4th-and-5 play at the Le Mars 10-yard-line. The Tigers had one last chance with about two minutes remaining and the ball at midfield but couldn't move the ball into scoring range.
"The silver lining for me is that we did a lot of very good things and against a good team," Tighe said. "We just didn't finish a few things off."
Tebrink completed 15-of-23 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Seven of those passes went to Rahn. The Bulldogs also rushed for 184 yards and a touchdown.
Spencer was led by Finnern's fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game. The junior carried the ball 20 times for 108 yards and two scores. Altenhofen rushed for 115 yards on just three carries and one touchdown. Austin Lauck carried 11 times for 32 yards as the Tigers totaled 280 yards rushing. Finnern was just 1-of-7 for 11 yards passing. Rasch completed a reverse-pass for 39 yards.
Spencer will travel to Carroll next Friday for another district matchup. Carroll won its first game Friday night, 24-14, over Storm Lake.