With the offense struggling to generate much in the way of points Saturday, Iowa Central head coach Jesse Montalto faced a decision.
Montalto, who would admit after the game he has never been one to show patience with his quarterbacks, stuck with starter Justin Silverstein. And the sophomore rewarded him.
Silverstein threw two third quarter touchdown passes and ran in another to lead the ninth-ranked Tritons to a 30-20 victory over No. 5 Garden City inside a hot and loud Dodger Stadium.
With the win, Iowa Central (2-0 overall) will likely climb into the Top-5 nationally ahead of a showdown with No. 1 Hutchinson this coming Saturday at home.
“Justin’s been the guy all spring and through the preseason,” Montalto said. “Typically, I don’t hesitate to replace a guy — especially at quarterback — because everybody at the position has confidence they can get the job done. But I wanted to reward Justin for his work, and he came through.
“Our defense again played incredible against a team loaded with Power-5 transfers. We won the special teams, and in the second half, our offense delivered.”
The Broncbusters (1-1), who feature transfers from schools such as Clemson, Baylor, Texas A&M, BYU, Minnesota and South Carolina among others, claimed a 20-7 lead on the heels of three consecutive touchdowns. Thanks to five turnovers and four sacks, though, the Tritons climbed back into it.
Aaron Warren had two interceptions, Dan Knudsen and Kolben Miller each had a sack and a fumble recovery, and Marlon Dawson and Malachi Byrd recorded a sack to anchor the ICCC defense.
“All game long, the defense came up with big plays,” Montalto said. “We’ve got a couple corners who played against incredible talent. (Garden City) has receivers who went to Texas A&M and BYU, and both were highly-ranked recruits. Our guys stepped up and showed they are as good as anybody in the country.”
The defensive effort helped fuel Silverstein and the offense, as the reigning ICCAC player of the week finished the game 22-for-44 for 200 yards with three scores. He also again led the team in rushing with 68 yards and a fourth touchdown.
All three of Silverstein’s passing TDs went to Mario Sanders, who tallied six catches for 106 yards. Michael Bartolotta and Tyler Schenkelberg each had five receptions, with four others catching passes.
Silverstein hit Sanders on scores from 24, 35 and 16 yards out, and his rushing touchdown with just over six minutes to go provided the winning points to break a 20-all tie. Kongolo Mwenemkamba gave Iowa Central some insurance points with a 21-yard field goal with less than two minutes to go, making it a two-possession game.
“These guys want to go against the best in the country,” Montalto said. “They have put in the time and work to showcase what they can do. I’m so proud of all the players and the coaches.”
Eli West, who had a key pass breakup on Texas A&M transfer Demond Demas, had six tackles, as did Byrd. Branson Peters and Ajai Russel each had five stops.
For Garden City, Jalen Daniels — a South Carolina transfer — threw for 179 yards with two touchdowns, Demas had four receptions for 64 yards, while ex-Clemson player Ajou Ajou and Minnesota transfer Alexander Lines caught TDs.
James Jones ran for 115 with a score, and Fred Davis added 76 on the ground.
Hutchinson (2-0) downed Ellsworth, 72-7, rushing for 441 yards on the day.