The West Branch football team is taking its act on the road. Again.
A week after traveling more than 161 miles to Osage for a Class 1A playoff win, the Bears will jump back on the school bus Friday for a 142-mile trek to Van Meter.
And, yes, it will be on a school bus, not some fancy charter.
West Branch looked into a charter bus for last Friday’s trip, but decided it was a bit too expensive. Now, the players will have it no other way after the 56-14 first-round win.
“The players told me they want to do the same thing” as last week, veteran coach Butch Pedersen said Thursday.
Pedersen and the Bears are taking a positive approach to this rather winding road to the UNI-Dome, which will host the next two rounds. Counting the regular-season finale at Dyersville Beckman — a mere 72 miles from West Branch — the Bears have put in nearly 400 miles the last three weeks.
“I’m just happy the way we’re playing and responding,” Pedersen said.
The bus rides, Pedersen said, have had a positive affect.
“They are enjoying riding on the bus and being together,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen likes a quiet ride, so some players rest while others listen to music on their headsets. But they all bond.
“They are really wanting to do well together,” Pedersen said.
Nothing has changed in the planning and execution, except for a lunch stop in Waterloo last week and in Des Moines this week.
“The last time I checked the football field is 100 yards,” Pedersen said when asked if road games change anything.
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The Bears (9-1) have been playing quite well since a 28-20 loss to Bellevue on Sept. 21. West Branch has reeled off five straight wins, averaging 42 points and allowing 11.6 during that span.
“I’m extremely pleased with the way the kids are playing right now,” Pedersen said.
Senior Beau Cornwell, who Pedersen calls the “best 1A quarterback in the state of Iowa,” has passed for 1,979 yards and 23 touchdowns against just three interceptions. He has completed 67.3 percent of his 140 passes and has a QB rating of 180.8.
Junior running back Tanner Lukavsky has contributed 1,234 rushing yards and 17 TDs on 119 carries — that’s 10.4 yards per carry — and has caught 27 passes for 358 yards and three TDs. And there’s senior Brett Schiele and junior Trey Eagle, with 32 receptions for 449 yards and 26 for 415, respectively.
Throw in a defense that is “really starting to pick up the pace” and you can see why Pedersen isn’t worried about another long bus ride.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said of facing third-ranked Van Meter (10-0). “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
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