INDIANOLA, Iowa – Taylor Nelson's coach told him he needed to get one yard. Instead he got 48.
With his team clinging to a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter and facing 4th-and-inches near midfield, Nelson broke through the first level on a quarterback sneak and ran in for the game-clinching score as Simpson beat Luther 21-10 in the season finale on Saturday.
Nelson threw for 167 yards, ran for 111 and shook off two, first quarter interceptions as the Storm (6-4, 4-3 Iowa Conference) snapped a three-game losing streak and finished the season tied for second in the conference.
"Before the play I told him 'you have to get a football length here'," head coach Jim Glogowski said. "After he scored the touchdown he came back and asked if that was long enough."
After starting the season 5-1, Simpson was in danger of finishing with a .500 record after losses to Coe, Dubuque and Buena Vista the previous three weeks.
"Our resiliency really showed," Glogowski said. "The seniors put a lot of time and effort in – they weren't going to let us out without a winning record."
With wind gusts of up to 37 miles per hour coming out of the South at Buxton Stadium, field position was at a premium as neither team scored when going into the wind. Simpson scored 14 points with the wind in the first quarter, Luther came back with 10 in the second but Simpson's defense kept Luther out of the end zone in the third.
Kody Moore completed 20 of 41 passes for 220 yard to lead the Norse (0-10, 0-7). Alex Hain scored the lone touchdown and Seth Streeter made a 32-yard field goal.
Cronin closed his career in style, scoring his first touchdown off the partially-blocked punt in the first quarter. A low snap on the play allowed Mike Munson to get a hand on the kick, which Cronin alertly plucked out of the air and took 35 yards for the score to give Simpson a 14-0 lead.
"Mark is such a smart kid," Glogowski said. "For him to have the wherewithal to say 'this thing is right here, let me get what I can' … you don't practice that, but he made a heads-up play."
A team captain and two-time academic all-district performer, Cronin has played a majority of the season on a torn ACL. Despite the injury, he didn't miss a single game. He had eight tackles and two pass breakups on Saturday.
"Doctors told him it could go any time," Glogowski said. "He just put it all on the line for the team, and to see him go out the way he did today is unbelievable."
Clay Finley added a pair of sacks for the Simpson defense, which had been held without a sack the previous two games.
Notes: With Nelson's 278 yards of total offense, he passed Mike Donnenwerth for first in Simpson history with 7,577 … Donnenwerth compiled 7,307 yards from 2000-03 … Nelson extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 18 … Brad Vogel caught 6 passes for 88 yards, finishing the season with 81 receptions for 1,116 yards, the second-most in school history in both categories … Taylor Rogers closed his career with 31 touchdown catches, the most in school history … Simpson recognized 28 graduating seniors prior to the game.