INDIANOLA, Iowa - The Simpson defense returned two fumbles for touchdowns but the legs – and arm – of JJ Sirios helped Luther come back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter and steal a 42-35 win from the Storm in the season finale.
Sirios ran for a TD, threw for another score and completed a clutch pass on fourth down to set up the game-winning score – all in the fourth quarter – for the Norse (5-5, 2-5 Iowa Conference), who racked up 465 yards of total offense.
"They executed a high level. We had a hard time stopping them today," head coach Jim Glogowski said.
Ethan Calvert ran for two touchdowns and linebackers Brandon Abernathy and Joe Gilson returned fumbles for touchdowns for the Storm (3-7, 0-7), who lost seven in a row to close the season after a 3-0 start.
"Win, lose or draw, you have to come back and work harder," Glogowski said. "This season was a tough one, maybe the toughest of my coaching career."
Three TD runs by Josh Vos helped Luther sprint out to a 21-7 lead with 5:56 left in the second quarter.
Although Simpson's offense had limited chances in the first half, big kick returns by Davey Jergens resulted in 8- and 4-yard TD runs by Calvert. Abernathy's 26-yard fumble return for a score tied the game 21-all at halftime.
The momentum stayed with Simpson to start the second half when freshman quarterback Caleb Frye marched the offense 73 yards in 10 plays on the opening drive. Frye, who replaced Braedon Tovey in the first quarter when he left with a leg injury, capped off the drive with 2-yard TD pass to Nathan Russell.
The defense struck again early in the fourth quarter when Gilson picked up a Vos fumble and returned it 25 yards for a score to give the Storm a 35-21 lead.
Luther pulled within a score on a 13-yard TD pass form Sirios to Jon Cochrane. Simpson fumbled near midfield on the ensuing possession, leading to a 1-yard TD run by Sirios on fourth-and-goal to tie the game at 35.
Sirios went to the air again after a Simpson three-and-out, hitting Trevor Joiner for a 32-yard gain on fourth-and-two from the Simpson 41. Christian Moore scored from three yards out to give Luther a 42-35 lead with 21 seconds left.
A cold, snowy afternoon played into the favor of Luther's ball-control, triple-option attack, which held the ball for more than 38 minutes.
Frye went 5-for-8 for 61 yards passing and rushed for 54 yards. Senior linebackers Abernathy and Grant Eller made 15 tackles each to lead the defense.
Simpson recognized its seniors in a ceremony prior to the game.
"Senior day is always tough," Glogowski said. "We would have liked to see them go out with a victory, but unfortunately we couldn't do that."