WAUKON — Two big stands and two long drives.
Waukon demonstrated grit and toughness, thwarting two Algona drives and following with two clock-melting drives in the second half. The first produced the only score after the break and the second sealed the Indians’ return to the UNI-Dome.
Dawson Baures scored three total touchdowns and converted a key fourth-and-2 with a little more than a minute left to cement Class 2A third-ranked Waukon’s 24-21 victory over No. 6 Algona in a state football quarterfinal Friday night at the Richard Hermeier Sports Complex.
The defending state champion Indians (10-1) advance to the semifinals next Saturday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. They’ll face No. 2 Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (10-1) for the second straight year at 4 p.m.
“It’s huge, losing a lot of seniors from last year,” Baures said. “It’s good, nice to be back.”
The return trip can be attributed to a big goal-line stand and an offense that powered its way to a final victory-securing possession.
Algona threatened to take the lead or even the score in the fourth, setting up first-and-goal from the 8. The Indians held strong, limiting it to two short gains and an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 6.
“It woke us up,” Waukon senior Brady Sullivan said. “It made us start playing like we should have been playing all game.
“That stop down there was huge. That pretty much decided the game.”
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Close, but it was the ensuing drive that ended Algona’s season. Waukon burned the final 5:51 off the clock, including 10 runs by Baures. He had gains of 32, 19 and 11 before the huge conversion set up by an Algona offsides penalty.
The Indians managed another stop earlier in the second half, forcing a turnover on downs after Algona drove to the Waukon 27 on its first possession after the break. They followed that with a 73-yard, nine-play drive capped by a Baures 7-yard TD.
Algona’s only other possession in the second half was a three-and-out, despite allowing some big plays in the first half — Wyatt Wegener’s 68-yard TD run — that led to a 21-18 deficit at the midway point.
“We talked at half (and) just made a few adjustments,” Waukon Coach Chad Beerman said. “They had one kid that is a stud and made some really great plays. Did a better job shutting him down.
“We did a better job reading our keys and getting where we needed to be. To get a goal-line stand and to grind out the clock to win the game is a great way to finish it.”
The first half was a seesaw affair that saw Waukon jump to a 12-0 lead on 15-yard TD pass from Creed Welch to Michael Sweeney and a 6-yard TD run by Baures.
Algona answered with a 90-yard kickoff return from Wegener, whose TD run put the Bulldogs up 14-12 with 10:57 to go in the second quarter. Wegener finished with 102 yards rushing and 40 receiving. Algona received a 4-yard score by Matt Grein to conclude first-half scoring.
Welch connected on a 57-yard TD pass to Baures to reclaim the lead at 18-14. Baures finished with 209 total yards of offense, including 173 rushing on 26 carries.
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“The boys up front did a great job,” Baures said. “The scout team gave me a good look to get a feel for their defense this week. It helped a lot.”
“Not a lot to him but he’s actually pretty strong,” Beerman said. “He’s got good speed.”
Welch contributed 131 passing yards, hitting Sweeney five times for 64 yards. He connected with Reed Keely for three key conversions on the second-half scoring drive.
“To win a quarterfinal game, you’ve got to get something out of someone else,” Beerman said. “Reed stepped up and made some big catches. Creed does do a good job finding receivers.”
The Indians have tallied 10 straight wins after losing the season opener to 3A quarterfinalist Decorah. They are in the same position they were from a year ago, but with different personel.
“We just don’t like to lose,” Sullivan said. “We’re a different team from last year. We have to write our own story.”
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