CEDAR FALLS — Just about everything that could go against Iowa City Regina did.
Take the fourth-down conversion that became one of three first-half turnovers. There was an opponent’s fumble that was plucked out of the air for an additional 4-yard gain. Then, an apparent interception that resulted in wild touchdown for the opponent.
Don’t forget the Regals faced a really, really good team.
Second-ranked Van Meter capitalized on a few quirky plays and controlled both sides of the ball, beating No. 3 Regina, 28-7, in the Class 1A state championship game Friday at the UNI-Dome. The Bulldogs (13-0) won their first state football title in school history.
“Obviously, they came out to play,” Regina senior running back/linebacker Isaac Vollstedt said. “They were ready for us.
“They got a few lucky breaks with the missed interception. They’re a hell of a team. I have to give it to them.”
All of those head-scratching plays came in the opening half. Regina Coach Marv Cook has seen a lot of football, but he was left without a comparison.
“Not that I can recall,” Cook said. “These were huge. A QB sneak we fumble and we had the pick and they get a touchdown out of it.”
Van Meter took an early advantage after being pinned inside its own 10 to start its first two series. The Bulldogs went 94 yards on five plays, including a 58-yard run by Anthony Lowman, who cut from the near to far side of the field before being run out of bounds. Three plays later, Sam Thompson hit the seam and got behind the linebackers, catching a 22-yard TD pass from Blake Fryar with 1:46 in the first.
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Regina (10-3) struggled to finish drives, reaching Van Meter territory on its first two possessions. The Regals faced 4th-and-1 near midfield and had more than enough for the first down when the ball popped out while fighting for extra yards. Van Meter recovered.
They didn’t turn that into points, but Thompson’s diving interception on the next drive set up the Bulldogs’ craziest score.
On the first play from scrimmage, Fryar’s badly underthrown ball appeared to be an interception. As the Regina defender was falling backward, the ball was bobbled and then kicked, landing in the hands of receiver Jack Trudo, who ran six yards to complete the 35-yard TD pass and 14-0 lead.
“I saw the ball disappear with the (defensive back),” Trudo said, “and then it popped right back up, so I caught it and scored.”
The Regals have faced adversity this season, opening 0-2 and avoiding playoff upsets to South Winneshiek and Pella Christian. They have faced adversity, but this wasn’t a tide they could stem.
“When you have a clear interception and it turns into a TD pass, it’s pretty heartbreaking,” Phillips said. “It’s just another thing we had to work through. We knew things were going to go their way and we knew things will go our way and we had to fight through all of it.”
“Hats off to them,” Phillips said. “They deserved it.”
Cook said the Regals were fortunate to be within two scores to start the third.
“To be down 14-0 at halftime, we actually felt pretty good about where we were,” Cook said. “What could go wrong went wrong and we were still in a good spot.
“I love our kids. (The defense) came in and slammed the door and kept them to 14 points. It could have gotten ugly in the first half. They did a good job keeping it close.”
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Regina, which played in its eighth straight title game, managed just eight offensive plays for 32 yards in the third, including 28 on the final two Vollstedt runs of the quarter. The Bulldogs defense stifled Regina, holding the Regals to 230 total yards.
“They are all over,” Cook said. “Their ends are great pressure guys. Their (defensive) tackles are tough kids and their inside linebackers are like a rock in there. Their edge guys are phenomenal.
“They close spaces. They don’t give you gaps. They are extremely talented.”
Regina got on the board in the opening minute of the fourth. Isaac Vollstedt dashed for a 46-yard TD, pulling the Regals within 21-7. The score provided a short-lived boost until Carson Rhodes’ last of two second-half touchdowns closed the ensuing 65-yard drive for Van Meter.
“I felt momentum was shifting a little bit,” Vollstedt said. “It’s tough not having our defense be able to hold up, but I feel our team played a pretty good game as a whole.”
Vollstedt finished with a game-high 157 rushing yards, topping Rhodes by 32. It was a bright spot, despite having to settle for silver for the second straight year.
“It’s nice to go out with a performance like that,” Vollstedt said. “Obviously, I’d rather go out on the other side and go out on a win.”
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