VAN METER — Back on Oct. 4, standing at midfield of Van Meter’s football field, Mount Ayr co-head coach Delwyn Showalter said he hoped maybe he and his team would be fortunate enough to get a rematch with Van Meter in the playoffs.
The Raiders had just suffered their first loss of the season that night, a 14-0 battle with Van Meter, in a matchup of teams that entered with undefeated records.
Mount Ayr earned that rematch with the Bulldogs with a 30-7 win over Panorama in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs Wednesday night in Panora, while Van Meter advanced with a 41-0 win over Treynor.
The Raiders constantly battled poor field position and turned the ball over five times in the loss to Van Meter on Oct. 4.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to play them again,” Showalter said. “We left the field up there that night, that was the thing we said, we wanted to get another shot at them. We get to go up there and see what we can do with them this time. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
One of the biggest challenges for the Raiders will be containing Van Meter quarterback Brandon Brittain, a dual threat quarterback.
Brittain completed 12-of-19 passes for 136 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the first meeting between the two teams. He also carried the ball 18 times for 49 yards.
For the season, he averages 130 yards passing and 85 yards rushing per game.
“Brittain makes everything go,” Showalter said. “He’s a good runner and obviously an outstanding passer. To me, the thing that makes him so effective is the threat of him being able to run. You can’t commit too many people to the pass, because he’s going to pull it down and run it.”
Junior running back Cody Blackwell provides another solid running threat for the Bulldogs. Blackwell carried 18 times for 89 yards against Mount Ayr and averages 121 yards per game this season.
“He’s a strong runner with a good burst of speed,” Showalter said. “Does a nice job for them both inside and outside.”
The Van Meter passing attack mostly revolves around three main targets — seniors Logan Crawford, Ben Flaherty and Grant Hoppes. Crawford leads the team with 30 catches for 489 yards and six touchdowns. Flaherty has 23 receptions and Hoppes 15.
Crawford caught four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting and Hoppes caught the other touchdown, finishing with two catches for 23 yards. Flaherty had one catch for 38 yards.
Defensively, Crawford is the leading tackler with 76 tackles. Chase Wyant ranks second with 68. Senior Spencer Benton has seven solo sacks this year, while Parker Suckow has five.
After Mount Ayr’s past two wins, a 35-7 win over Pella Christian in the regular season finale and the 30-7 win over Panorama, Showalter has said he feels like Mount Ayr has gotten back to “Raider football.”
The Raiders are playing with a more smashmouth approach over the past week.
“Our guys have really bought into being a power football team right now,” co-head coach Derek Lambert said after the win over Panorama. “Even thought we’ve got all this athleticism and speed, we’ve still got size and strength as well. We were able to handle the line of scrimmage well on both sides of the ball.”
After turning the ball over five times against Van Meter in the first contest and only losing 14-0, Showalter said he feels like his team is very competitive with Van Meter, especially if it plays Raider football.
“We left Van Meter that night feeling like we had played well below our capabilities,” Showalter said. “It was one of those games where every bounce of the ball seemed to go their way. We certainly feel like we’re very competitive with them.”
Lambert said the players are ready for Monday’s rematch.
“I think our kids are hungry for this rematch,” he said. “Our guys are playing awful well right now, with a lot of confidence. “We’re trying to go to Van Meter and give them everything we’ve got.”
Several players came out of the Panorama game banged up, but Showalter expects them to be ready to go for Monday.
Cody Stackhouse injured an ankle in the first half and did not play the second half. Casey Paxson dislocated a finger and had it “relocated” in time to return to the game Wednesday. Meanwhile, Kyle Dolecheck bruised his hip late in the game. According to Showalter, none of the injuries seem serious enough for the players to miss Monday’s game, however.
Junior Lincoln Martin, on the other hand, suffered a torn ACL in the win over Pella Christian and will have surgery to repair the torn ligament today.
Mount Ayr (8-2) and Van Meter (10-0) will meet for the second time this season at 7 p.m. in Van Meter.