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Easton Valley falls just short in 8-Man state title game

The River Hawks were defeated 42-40 by CAM, Anita in their first-ever trip to the UNI Dome

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A historic season for Easton Valley came to an end on Thursday as the River Hawks lost 42-40 to CAM, Anita in the 8-Man State Championship.

"If we weren't enough without a state championship, we'll never be enough with one," said Easton Valley head coach Tony Johnson. "That's kind of the mentality we have and the character we have as a team. It stings, but I have a great group of guys who are going to do well in life."

The matchup lived up to the hype, as both teams came into the game undefeated with identical 12-0 records.

Easton Valley scored on their first three offensive possessions and took advantage of three defensive takeaways to build an early 21-6 lead in the first quarter.

The River Hawks' three touchdowns came through the air, as senior quarterback Conor Gruver connected with Andin Farrell, brother Aiden Gruver, and Hayden Fekly, respectively, to cap off the scoring drives.

CAM answered quickly with a 65-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion just before the end of the first quarter to make it a one-possession game, 21-14.

Both sides would trade scores in the second quarter, with Easton Valley taking a 27-22 lead into halftime.

After receiving the second-half kickoff, the River Hawks marched down the field and scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper to go up 33-22 after a failed two-point conversion.

CAM's offense came to life on the next possession, scoring on a 48-yard rushing touchdown, followed by a 50-yard passing score just before the end of the third quarter to take their first lead of the game, 36-33.

The Cougars wouldn't trail again, forcing an Easton Valley three-and-out before adding another quick score to extend a 42-33 lead late in the fourth quarter.

A 45-yard passing touchdown via Gruver brothers connection brought Easton Valley within two points, but their comeback fell just short.

The River Hawks defense forced a punt and got the ball back with under two minutes to go, but turned the ball over on downs in their own territory, losing by a final score of 42-40.

Conor Gruver finished his strong season with a six total touchdown, 384-passing yard effort in the loss.

"Playing with these guys I wouldn't trade anything for it. It's been the best three and a half months of my life," Gruver said. "We worked hard everyday to get to where we were, and we had it. We had the end goal and we just didn't execute down the stretch and came up just short. Everyone put in 100% effort and I couldn't ask for anything else."

The memorable season also had a piece of history for the River Hawks in their final game. Junior wide receiver Carson Fuegen finished his day with a state-record 20 receptions for 211 yards.

"Our community support has been over the top," Fuegen said. "I can't thank them more, they've been supportive the entire year. Even the past football players showing up and giving us advice, sometimes mid-game. It's been insane."

The trip to the UNI Dome was the first-ever for Easton Valley High School who opened its doors in July 2013.