116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — Western Dubuque hadn’t started a season 0-2 since 2006.
That year, the Bobcats began 0-4.
The Bobcats had one of the state’s most difficult draws to begin the season, dropping games to 4A No. 4 Cedar Rapids Xavier and No. 2 North Scott.
Friday night, the Bobcats (1-2) resurrected their season and ensured they won’t be repeating the 0-4 start of 15 years ago with a 21-10 win over Iowa City Liberty (0-3).
“We’ve been a staff for eight years and we haven’t been 0-2,” Western Dubuque Coach Justin Penner said. “It isn’t really something we strive to be. I thought our kids had a great week of practice and didn’t behave as if we were 0-2.
“We live more of a vision than a circumstance.”
It was the defense, particularly in the second half, that carried the Bobcats. Leading 14-10 at intermission, Western Dubuque didn’t allow a point in the third and fourth quarters.
“We gave up a lot of yards, but we didn’t give up a lot of points,” Penner said. “Our defense bent but didn’t break.”
The first half was a back-and-forth, turnover-laden affair with both defenses forcing two turnovers.
Liberty began its first drive on Western Dubuque’s 31. The offense didn’t drive far, but just enough to put Emerson Bennett in field goal range as he nailed a 31-yarder to put the Lightning up 3-0 early.
On the next drive, with the Bobcats driving deep into Liberty territory, the Lightning defense buried Grant Glausser for a 6-yard loss on a fourth-and-5 attempt from Liberty’s 20. But Liberty failed to capitalize.
The Lightning defense then allowed a 45-yard completion from Jack Clemens to Andrew Oltmanns, only to strip the ball from him and recover it at Liberty’s 29.
Again, Liberty’s offense couldn’t capitalize. But Liberty Coach James Harris was pleased with his team’s defensive effort, as the Lightning forced four turnovers.
“Back-to-back four-turnover games for our defense, I think we’re doing a lot of good things,” Harris said. “I think we have some really talented kids on our defense.”
Western Dubuque put a score on the board with 8:09 to go in the second quarter as Spencer Zinn capped a seven-play, 49-yard drive with a 3-yard TD giving the Bobcats a 7-3 lead.
Caleb Klein then recovered a Tye Hughes fumble at Liberty’s 12. Following a holding penalty, Clemens found Klein for a 20-yard completion to set up Glausser for a 2-yard score on the next play, extending the Bobcats’ lead to 14-3.
“(Klein) is really coming into his own,” Penner said. “We’re really pleased with his effort on both sides of the ball.”
Klein added an interception with 5:07 in the second, but it didn’t lead to any points.
With just 1:09 left in the first half, Hughes found Luke Meyers on a wide receiver-screen pass and Meyers exploded past defenders on his way for a 71-yard TD. Meyers’ score narrowed the gap to 14-10 before intermission.
“I think Luke Meyers is a heck of a football players,” Harris said.
Liberty missed two field goals in the second half, with the second attempt being partially blocked.
Clemens found Nick Bryant for a 56-yard TD with 8:33 to go to make the final 21-10.
Offensively, Western Dubuque was led by Spencer Zinn who carried the ball 20 times for 180 yards and a score.
“I’m really pleased with our advances in our run game,” Penner said. “I thought he (Zinn) played a great game last week and ran the ball hard. So we challenged him to repeat that.”
Liberty will host Clear Creek Amana next Friday, while Western Dubuque will host Dubuque Hempstead.