CEDAR FALLS — For a little more than a quarter, Edgewood-Colesburg was in control and it seemed very possible the memorable football season would continue.
The change in quarters came with a change of momentum that all but eliminated Ed-Co’s chances for a first finals appearance.
Third-ranked Avoca AHSTW overwhelmed No. 5 Ed-Co with a 29-point second quarter, rolling to a 39-12 victory in the Class A state semifinals Friday at the UNI-Dome. The loss brings an end to Ed-Co’s record-setting 10-win season and inaugural trip to the semifinals.
“It’s been a heck of a season,” Ed-Co senior quarterback Ethan Streicher said. “I wouldn’t trade this group of guys for nothing. We’ve accomplished so much and stuck together.
“It’s a great team, a great season.”
Ed-Co built a 6-0 lead with 2:18 left in the first quarter. After recovering a fumble and turning away AHSTW at the Ed-Co 28, Streicher led an effective 11-play drive that covered 77 yards. Streicher capped the scoring drive with a 1-yard run.
In addition to the turnover, the Ed-Co defense forced AHSTW to punt on its only other possession before the first break.
“I thought the first quarter was what we were looking for,” Ed-Co Coach James Rochford said. “We were controlling the line of scrimmage a little bit. We were getting some good plays and I thought the kids were making plays.
“We had a fumble recovery and some good offensive plays,”
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The shift escalated quickly, seemingly sparked by Seth Kiesel’s third-down sack of Streicher for a 9-yard loss. Four plays later, Blake Osbahr hit Blake Partridge for a 78-yard touchdown pass, hitting him in stride after it appeared the defender slipped.
It was the first of a series of short drives for both teams. Ed-Co quickly went nowhere and AHSTW quickly found the end zone.
Gabe Pauley scored on two of his three TD runs on consecutive drives that consisted of five and four plays, respectively. Pauley’s 1-yard score was set up by his own 34-yard gain and the 4-yard TD came after a 42-yard pass from Osbahr to Partridge.
Streicher said Ed-Co failed to execute fundamentals in the second quarter.
“They got the momentum,” Streicher said. “They were feeling it. They were kicking us and we just couldn’t get up. We couldn’t get going again.”
The dagger came right before the half. AHSTW used timeouts to force a punt and get the ball back. A bad snap forced Streicher to make a play with his legs, but the AHSTW defense pounced, stopping him at the Ed-Co 11 with 17 seconds remaining.
Osbahr hit Partridge in the front right corner of the end zone, making it 29-6 at intermission. Osbahr finished 11-of-12 passing for 258 yards, connecting with Partridge seven times for 218.
“It definitely made it easier to breathe down there,” Partridge said of the 29-point outburst. “Not having to worry about much. The weight lifted off our shoulders. We got to play very comfortably and play our best football throughout the rest of the game.”
Ed-Co continued to fight, adding a 27-yard TD strike from Streicher to Spencer Staner in the third.
“We didn’t want to go out, getting killed,” Streicher said. “We had a little fire in us. We wanted to put more scores up. We came out and started executing again.”
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Ed-Co was without the services of senior Preston Rochford, who was the team’s leading rusher (1,872 yards), tackler (86.5) and scorer (204 points). His 27 catches was a team high and 340 receiving yards was second. He suffered a season-ending knee injury early against Garrigan.
“As a coach, you’ve got your leading tackler, leading rusher, leading receiver, that’s tough,” said the head coach, who became visibly emotional. “To watch him go through it, just crushes a father.”
Ed-Co had its first winning season since 2007 and just its fifth postseason. The bar has been raised and this experience provides a sturdy building block.
“Our seniors set a great example,” said Staner, a junior. “I looked up to them. I just would like to keep what they did going.”
AHSTW (12-0) added a Pauley TD rush and a Kyle Branan fourth-quarter field goal in the second half. It is the first finals appearance as a combined program.
“It’s a childhood dream and all we’ve ever want every single year,” Partridge said. “To finally actually do it means a lot to me, our team (and) the community. It’s really amazing.”
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