IOWA CITY — Over the past decade, Iowa City Regina’s football team has been dominant.
The Regals had won six straight state championships dating back to 2010 — two in Class 2A and four in 1A — winning 33 straight playoff games and 80 straight games against small-school foes.
They were seemingly unstoppable.
But last season in the Class 1A state championship game, that run came to a close. The Regals were stunned by Western Christian, 47-34, snapping Regina’s historic run.
A year later, the Regals have used that loss as fuel to the fire. Ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll, they’re hungry, ready to get back to the UNI-Dome and win a seventh state title in eight years.
“It’s definitely hard not to think about it every day going to lifting, but it’s definitely been a great motivation,” quarterback Michael Conlon said. “I think for the guys that did play (in the game), it just showed us how much effort and how much work it takes to get there.”
The good news for the Regals, though, is they return most of their core players. Three starting linemen from last year are back, along with the trio of running back Isaac Volstedt, running back Jake Phillips and quarterback Conlon.
Coach Marv Cook has just been focused on adding some numbers to his depth chart during camp, something he said is critical.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“We’ve got a nice mix of skill guys, linemen guys, but we just have to develop some depth,” Cook said. “That’s the one thing we really need to work on is really creating more depth.”
As for his trio of offensive skill players, Cook looks to be in good shape.
Phillips put up nearly 900 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns. Volstedt ran for more than 1,100 yards in his junior campaign, putting up 189 yards and three touchdowns in the state championship game. And Conlon completed more than 64 percent of his passes for 1,673 yards.
Those three, while backed by a strong offensive line, are sure to have another solid season, Cook said.
“They just play,” Cook said. “Isaac looks phenomenal. He’s a great route runner, got great hands, a physical runner. He’s deceptively faster than you think. And then Jake Phillips is a phenomenal route runner, running back. He’s got some great moves, just like his brother, and then Mike does a great job running our offense.”
Regina will have to be ready to go quickly. It opens with a tough schedule on the front end. The Regals start the season hosting 3A No. 3 Cedar Rapids Xavier, an opponent that always puts up a fight. Then the next week they travel to Solon, another 3A rival, in a series that has been a tight battle for several years.
Should Regina get past the first two non-district games, Cook said he feels confident it can return to the level it was at last season.
So even though they fell in the title game last year, breaking a streak that was set before this group of seniors was even in high school, Conlon and Cook said this group has what it takes to right that ship. Weight room attendance has been up all offseason, and Cook said this is one of the more talented teams he’s ever coached.
And, most importantly, they haven’t forgotten the state championship loss — and likely won’t all season long.
“We don’t like losing,” Cook said. “They don’t like not winning. This group particularly are scrappy. They’re tough. They’re maybe not the biggest guys, but they’ve just been a really good nucleus of guys that have been together for a long time. They can compete, and if there is one skill that I love to work with, it’s that. They’ll find a way to get after it and find a way to win.”
Regina, at a glance
Coach: Marv Cook (11th season, 125-9)
Last year: 11-2 (district champions, state runner-up)
Top returning letterwinners: QB Michael Conlon, RB/LB Isaac Vollstedt, RB Jacob Phillips, OL/DL Steve Sehl, OL/DL Cole White
Key losses: OL/DL Jared Brinkman, WR Brady Bigley, QB/WR Thomas Rapp, WR Jack Jensen, RB Mason Simpson
Key to making playoffs: Regina will need to fill in Brinkman’s place on the offensive line, and make sure it can protect quarterback Conlon and allow for a strong offensive attack from Vollstedt and Phillips.
Games to watch: Regina’s biggest test comes in the first two weeks of the season against Class 3A competition. The Regals host Cedar Rapids Xavier, then they’ll travel to Solon, a tough rivalry game.
Aug. 25 — Cedar Rapids Xavier
Sept. 1 — at Solon
Sept. 8 — Wapello
Sept. 15 — at Sigourney-Keota
Sept. 22 — Highland
Sept. 29 — at Wilton
Oct. 6 — Van Buren
Oct. 13 — Columbus Junction
Oct. 20 — at Louisa-Muscatine