May 27, 2024

Conqs Upset Bid Falls Short in Season Opener

DODGE CITY, Kan. – Dodge City Conquistadors head coach Terry Karg spoke earlier in the week about wanting his team to step into every week with an “earn it” mentality and his team certainly took that message to heart in their season opener against the #1 Western Iowa Community College Reivers despite falling 27-20.

These two football programs had matched up eight times going into the weekend with Iowa Western winning all 8 of them, most of which came by convincing margins. As a matter of fact, only one game, their 2016 meeting, was decided by single digits. 

There was certainly a sense of uneasiness that could be felt among the Conquistador fans who filled a cloudy Memorial Stadium, especially after last season’s 46-0 romp by the Reivers in Council Bluffs last August.

It looked like the game could be heading that direction again after Iowa Western took the football on their opening drive and immediately got it all the way to the Conquistadors 11, mostly on the shoulders of sophomore running back Bryant Williams who had 51 rushing yards on the drive. 

However, the Conqs defense sent a message by stalling the drive out and Bobby Arnold III blocked the Reivers’ field goal attempt to keep the game scoreless in the early going.

Both offenses were fairly quiet in the first quarter except for one Dodge City touchdown drive helped along primarily by two big plays. A 24-yard catch by Curtis Reardon gave the offense and quarterback Trey Jefferson their first bit of momentum and they capitalized on the next play with Jefferson connecting with Greg Genross over the top for 29 yards and a touchdown to stun Iowa Western and put Dodge City ahead 6-0 after a missed PAT.

Iowa Western’s offense and quarterback Hunter Watson finally found their stride in the beginning part of the second quarter when on a pivotal third and goal at the nine, Watson found sophomore receiver LJ Fitzpatrick in the back of the end zone to put the Reivers up 7-6. Kam Thomas fumbled the ensuing kickoff and it took Watson one play to connect with Jordan Johnson for a 37-yard touchdown and all of the sudden it was 14-6 Iowa Western.

The Conqs defense managed to get the team to the half trailing by eight but the offense had under 100 total yards and had been vastly out-possessed by the Reivers. 

It looked like the game would get away from the Conqs early in the third when an interception and botched punt led to ten Iowa Western points in the early part of the third to increase the Reiver lead to 24-6. With the game in the balance the Conquistadors responded exactly the way the coaching staff wanted them to.

“Coach Karg had been preaching finish, finish, finish and that’s how we practice and that’s how we played today. We stuck together and it’s the small things that coach Karg has talked about.” said assistant coach Ananthan Gibson.

With Trey Jefferson out injured, Bryce Conover had to step in and pilot the Conquistadors offense and on his first snap he handed it off to Jalen Smith who exploded for an 88-yard touchdown to make it a game again 24-13. 

The Reivers were stuffed on their next two drives and the Conqs offense got on the board again late in the third as Conover found Kerya Powell in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown after a 4th down penalty on Iowa Western extended the drive. 

Trailing by just three points, the Conq defense rose to the occasion again, forcing a three-and-out to put the ball back in Conover’s hands for a chance to get in front. A 33-yard strike to Javon Campbell on the last play of the third put the Conqs in the redzone entering the fourth quarter. On the first play of the fourth, Iowa Western’s Matt Kordas picked off Conover in the end zone killing the promising drive and Dodge would never get that close to the end zone again.

Dodge was forced to punt after their defense got another stop but their drive stalled out in their own territory. The Conqs would get one more chance with under five minutes to play after Iowa Western tacked on a field goal to make it 27-20 but on 4th-and-8 near midfield, Conover’s pass fell incomplete and Iowa Western ran out the clock to avoid the upset. 

After being outgained by over 300 yards in their previous meeting, the Conqs hung with the defending national champions the whole way with both teams amassing over 300 yards of total offense. Hunter Watson finished the day going 15-27 for 176 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 39 yards on the ground. His primary target was LJ Fitzpatrick who made seven catches for 83 yards and two scores.

Offensively, Dodge’s Trey Jefferson and Bryce Conover combined to go 13-32 for 181 yards, two TDs and 2 INTs. Jalen Smith was the main threat on the ground, carrying it seven times for 107 yards, he exited the game in the third quarter with an injury though.

“I know what we have…and from what I’ve seen…we’re going to be alright. I think we can play with anyone in the country.” coach Gibson said.

The Conquistadors now shift their focus to next weekend where they will take to the road to face another team ranked in the preseason top-15, the Coffeyville Community College Red Ravens at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

 

Anathan Gibson Postgame Interview