CEDAR FALLS — This streak will end some year. Maybe.
It doesn’t appear to be anytime soon, that’s for sure. Juggernaut doesn’t really accurately describe what West Des Moines Dowling has going on right now.
The Maroons overwhelmed yet another Eastern Iowa opponent in a Class 4A state championship game, winning it all for the unprecedented fifth straight year Friday night, 35-21, over error-prone Iowa City West at the UNI-Dome.
Reload, repeat. Add recover in there this season.
Dowling (12-1) actually lost the penultimate game of the regular season to Ankeny Centennial. Of course, the Maroons won the rematch in last week’s semifinals, 44-7, and disposed of West (12-1) in this game for a second consecutive year.
“It is really, really hard in any class to go undefeated,” said Dowling Coach Tom Wilson. “We’ve been fortunate enough to do it a couple of times. There have been times like this year, where we still are able to win a state championship. It’s all about the maturity in your team and how they are going to handle that.”
West (12-1) suffered four turnovers (an interception and three fumbles), which gave it too big of a hill to climb. Dowling used that and consistently good field position to score four straight touchdowns for a 28-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Uber-fast running back Jayson Murray had 155 yards rushing and three touchdowns for the Maroons. Dowling had 209 rushing yards in the game and 202 passing.
That’s called balance.
“It’s a tough one,” said West Coach Garrett Hartwig. “You lose to a team that flat-out beats you, you can walk away. You lose to a team after you make a lot of mistakes, that’s a tough one you’ve got to learn from. Hopefully our young guys saw that tonight.”
Trojans quarterback Evan Flitz set the 4A championship game record for pass completions (30) and yards (347), doing everything he could to help will his team to victory. He threw three TD passes, two to Traevis Buchanan.
“I’m not focused on that right now,” said Flitz, who will make someone a fine college QB. “We’re not about me or I here. We’re about we. With team success comes individual success. We didn’t have enough team success tonight. Too many mistakes.”
“We realized the opponent we were playing against, but I’m not going to say we were nervous, that we were afraid to go against them because they’ve won how many ever championships in a row,” said Buchanan, who had 144 yards in receptions. “We came in like it was just another opponent. We prepared as hard as we could for this game, came and played hard.”
West was a big-time underdog in last year’s title game but kept it close, 23-10. Dowling was the favorite again, but, with the Trojans playing so well in their first 12 games, you guessed this would be a game.
And it was. West made the first statement, driving 80 yards on 10 plays to open the game with a touchdown: a 9-yard Flitz-to-Buchanan touchdown.
But it took Dowling a mere three plays and 23 seconds to tie it. Quarterback Blake Clark completed a pair of passes for 39 yards, and Murray took care of things from there, running untouched up the middle 41 yards for the touchdown.
He was able to ride behind a massive offensive line that weighed 290, 265, 225, 305 and 335 pounds from left tackle to right tackle.
“I’m just proud of the way we fought,” said West linebacker-tight end Dillon Doyle. “Usually these Dowling guys bury people for making mistakes. But we kept fighting back, kept coming. I’m proud of the guys for that. I love them. I couldn’t ask for a better team to play with. I’m happy for us.”
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A penalty and back-to-back sacks made West punt from its 2 in the second quarter, with the return of that punt giving Dowling the ball at the Trojans 38. Murray scored on the ensuing play.
West then went three-and-out offensively, with Dowling again enjoying good field position at its 46. A pair of passes from Clark moved the football to the 3, with Murray plunging in from there for a 21-7 halftime lead for the Maroons.
“I haven’t allowed myself the chance, yet, to think about what life is going to be like without this senior class,” Hartwig said. “The minute I do, it’s going to be tough to move on. They’re all very special to me, they’re all very special to this program. They won more games as a group than any seniors have in a long time. I don’t know the specifics on it. That’s just the way the game goes.”
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