VAN METER — One month to the day that Van Meter defeated Mount Ayr 14-0 in a battle of unbeatens, the Bulldogs repeated the feat, sending the Raiders home for good this time with a 34-14 win in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.
“There’s nothing we can really say to make the kids feel better about ending a season,” Mount Ayr co-head coach Derek Lambert said. “It doesn’t matter when that time comes. It’s always going to hurt. Our kids are hurting tonight, and they ought to.”
The first quarter quickly passed with Van Meter building a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Brittain to Grant Hoppes.
Mount Ayr sophomore Kyle Dolecheck picked off his ninth pass of the season in the opening quarter, adding to his school record total for a single season.
The Raiders opened the second quarter by punting the ball away, but forced a three-and-out, taking over at their own 41-yard line.
After a pair of Jacob Sobotka runs, senior Erik Freed took a counter play after a fake pitch, and bounced outside off the left of the offensive line, running away from the Van Meter defense for a 42-yard touchdown run to even the score at 7-7.
It didn’t take long for Van Meter to answer, however, as Brittain connected with Logan Crawford on third and 15, and Crawford ran down the right sideline, for a 63-yard touchdown to put Van Meter back on top with 6:07 to go in the half.
The Raiders methodically moved the ball down the field on the ensuing possession, converting on a pair of fourth-and-1 plays.
With :26 remaining in the half, Mount Ayr called its final timeout of the half, facing second and goal from the 4.
Coming out of the timeout, Sobotka was picked off by Zach Forret, who ran down the left sideline 96 yards for a touchdown with :12 left in the half, putting the Bulldogs up 20-7.
“If they score there, it’s tied or they take the lead by one and they get the ball to start the second half,” Van Meter head coach Eric Trudo said. “That’s a drastically different scenario than being up two scores. We made a play and got a little bit, just enough of a block to get in that last 20 to 30 yards.”
“You look back at that as a coach and think, ‘why in the world did I call that?’” Lambert said. “Four yards to go, but we had no timeouts and we were worried about the time running out. Hindsight is 20/20. You want to go back and change some things, but you can’t. You try to overcome adversity, and the thing our guys did all night long was they continued to battle and to fight. Really proud of our guys for how hard they fought.”
Mount Ayr had an opportunity to strike back in the second half, but after moving the ball into Van Meter territory, was called for a false start on third-and-1, backing the ball up.
“I thought we did seem to come out and move the ball,” Mount Ayr co-head coach Delwyn Showalter said. “It looked like we had a little spark there. If we can take that one in and score, it kind of negates what they did right before halftime. But, the penalty put us off course and then we couldn’t recover from that and had to give the ball up. From that point on, we had a tough time stopping them.”
Neither team changed the scoreboard in the third quarter, but on the first play of the fourth quarter, Brittain scored on a 5-yard touchdown run. Five minutes later, Brittain again scored a rushing touchdown to push the lead to 34-7.
Mount Ayr sophomore Jacob Taylor capped off the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run set up by a 96-yard kickoff return by Freed.
“We couldn’t sustain a drive, we couldn’t hold a block long enough,” Lambert said. “It just seemed like some of the little things that we weren’t able to do to get us over that hump. We needed one of those long drives that took the time off the clock, kept our defense off the field, and we just couldn’t do that. Credit Van Meter for being a tremendous football team.”
The Raiders end the season with an 8-3 mark, while Van Meter improves to 11-0.
Twelve Raider players wore a Mount Ayr uniform for the final time Monday night. Seniors for Mount Ayr were Sobotka, Dawson Knapp, Jacob Beamgard, Quency Vos, Cody Stackhouse, Matt Poore, Ryan Parrott, Mason Mercer, Hagan Willis, Zach Vanderflught, Casey Paxson and Freed.
“It’s a nice group, a big group,” Showalter said. “A group that’s been a big part of what we’ve accomplished over the last four years. We’ve got more guys in this group that have played varsity, several of them for four years. Quite a few of them have been three-year starters and probably two who have been four-year starters. I don’t think we’ve ever had a group to go through quite like that.”
“I can’t say enough good things about this group of seniors,” Lambert said. “All the hard work those kids put in, those are the memories they’re going to have and those are the memories I have of them. I’m really proud of the effort they put in to get to this point.”
Van Meter advances to yet another District 7 rematch, this time hosting Ogden, which defeated Council Bluffs St. Albert 12-10 Monday night. Van Meter topped Ogden 35-28 in the first meeting between the two teams.
“They’re a team that believes they can win, obviously, to go into a place like Council Bluffs St. Albert, and so we’re going to have to come ready to play,” Trudo said. “We’re going to have to regroup. Yes, this was a big win, but we’ve got to regroup and come right back at it Friday night.”
Van Meter 34, Mount Ayr 14
MA 0 7 0 7 - 14
VM 7 13 0 14 - 34
VM — Grant Hoppes 13 pass from Brandon Brittain (Kick successful), :32
MA — Erik Freed 42 run (Zach Vanderflught kick), 8:18
VM — Logan Crawford 63 pass from Brittain (Kick blocked), 6:07
VM — Zach Forret 96 interception return (Kick successful), :12
VM — Brittain 5 run (Kick successful), 11:55
VM — Brittain 7 run (Kick successful), 6:16
MA — Jacob Taylor 1 run (Zach Vanderflught kick), 4:41
Rushing: MA - Jacob Sobotka 19-94, Erik Freed 8-62, Riley Weehler 8-28, Cody Stackhouse 5-14, Nick Wurster 1-5, Jacob Taylor 1-1, Grant Staats 1-1. VM - Brandon Brittain 24-150, Cody Blackwell 18-67.
Passing: MA - Jacob Sobotka 3-11-2 for 22 yards, Jacob Taylor 0-1-0. VM - Brandon Brittain 7-13-1 for 129 yards.
Receiving: MA - Kyle Dolecheck 3-22. VM - Logan Crawford 1-63, Grant Hoppes 4-60, Jake Koch 1-5, Cody Blackwell 1-1.
Tackles (solo-assists): MA - Cody Stackhouse 3-8, Mason Mercer 5-6, Riley Weehler 1-8, Caleb Schnoor 3-5, Joe Ricker 4-3, Jacob Sobotka 1-3, Kyle Dolecheck 2-2, Grant Staats 0-4, Tucker Winemiller 2-2, Jacob Taylor 1-2, Jed McCreary 0-2, Erik Freed 0-2.
Tackles for loss: MA - Joe Ricker 2, Mason Mercer 2, Tucker Winemiller 1, Cody Stackhouse 1, Caleb Schnoor 1.
Sacks: MA - Mason Mercer 1, Joe Ricker 1.
Interceptions: MA - Kyle Dolecheck 1.