CEDAR FALLS — Iowa City Regina’s seniors grew up amid the football program’s championship run.
The goal was to one day hoist a championship trophy of their own. After four years, three trips to the UNI-Dome and two finals appearances, these Regals are No. 1 again.
“We’ve kind of grown up with all the state championship games,” Regina senior quarterback Ashton Cook said. “Best is the standard. That’s what we say in our program. We like to hold ourselves to that and to have won a state championship means a lot.”
Second-ranked Regina erupted for 24 unmatched points in the second quarter, Alec Wick and Theo Kolie set title game records and the Regals rolled to a 52-28 victory over No. 1 Grundy Center in the Class A final Thursday afternoon. Regina claimed its state crown and first since 2015.
“You always want to go out with a bang and that’s what we did,” said Wick, who broke the Class A championship game record with 226 receiving yards. “We executed every play and we never let up.”
All three facets contributed and a gamble paid off in a critical 17-point flurry in a 4:15 stretch of the second, allowing the Regals to pull away from the Spartans (11-1). Wick’s 22-yard field goal sparked the rally, putting Regina ahead, 10-7.
Due to the fact that Grundy Center’s previous drive covered 80 yards on 13 plays and burned a little more than six minutes off the clock, Regina Coach Marv Cook opted to try an onside kick.
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“They had a really nice, long, well-executed drive to score points,” Marv Cook said. “We saw it on film and thought we might have a chance at it. Alec Wick is an incredible soccer player and hit it about perfect.”
Jack Clark recovered the ball and five plays later Kolie scored his second of a championship game record five rushing TDs. This was a 1-yard run for a double-digit Regina advantage.
“We know we have an offense that can score at any time,” Ashton Cook said. “When we got that onside, it was huge. I told the huddle that we need to score and capitalize on that and we did.”
Kolie provided a big play defensively to go with his 124 rushing yards. He rushed off the end and drilled Grundy Center quarterback Logan Knaack, jarring the ball free that Jack Tierney returned to the Spartans 25.
“I saw the end crash down and I was like ‘Oh, thank you,’ so I just went out there,“ Kolie said. “The quarterback was taking his time. As soon as he put his hand up, I went for the ball and J.T. made a great fumble recovery.”
Kolie added another 1-yard score and his 5-yard run with 47 seconds left gave Regina a 31-7 halftime lead and tied the record of four that was shared by three others. His 4-yard TD run early in the fourth put him in the record books.
“Their defense did a great job, making us fight for every single yard,” Kolie said. “I thought our line did an amazing job of pounding, pounding and pounding, opening up holes for us. I’m very grateful to have this amazing line.”
The Regals amassed 534 total yards. The younger Cook finished with 325, completing 17 of 24 passes and second-half TD strikes to Carson Jensen for 12 and Wick for 88.
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“We played our best football here down the stretch these last two weeks,” Marv Cook said. “We’ve been playing really, really well.”
The Spartans suffered a huge loss during that second-quarter barrage. Leading rusher Zach Opheim left with a back injury on the first play after the onside kick. He missed the last nine minutes of the first half and all of the second half.
Knaack passed for 262 yards and two TDs and ran for two more and Nick Ascher had 214 receiving yards and a score for Grundy Center. Opheim’s absence left too big of a void to fill.
“It changes a lot of what we do,” Spartans Coach Travis Zajac said. “In small-school football, you’re razor thin in all positions, you lose a player with the impact that Zach has in all three phases it’s hard for anyone to overcome.”
The victory was a crowning achievement for the Regina seniors that were in the title game as freshmen. They have a title of their own, adding to the program’s title haul.
“Each team is unique,” Marv Cook said. “Each group of seniors, it’s their class and their team.
“I’ve coached these guys since kindergarten in all the different sports. I’ve watched them compete. They’ve worked really, really hard, as everybody across the state has. … “It’s fun to watch these guys play. These guys can flat-out play.”
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