2A Quarterfinals Recap: GRASPING AT AIR
By BRANDON HURLEY
As it turns out, the state’s most one-dimensional team is mighty damn good at playing to its strengths.
Football fans across the state witnessed an elite rushing attack emphatically stake its claim among the best in its 2A quarterfinals victory, proving they can out-run even the most balanced of offenses.
Third-seeded Algona (11-0) blitzed its way to the state semifinals last week with a convincing, 48-15 triumph over eighth-seeded Greene County in Algona. The victory marked the Bulldogs’ second-ever trip to the UNI Dome and first since 1984.
The loss ended Greene County’s season with a school-record nine wins and just two losses. In the end, Algona showed exactly why they’ve ripped off 11 consecutive victories. The Bulldogs rushed for 401 yards and seven touchdowns at a ridiculous 9.1 yards per carry average.
Two Algona running backs rushed for more than 100 yards each while four backs rushed for at least 60 yards. If that wasn’t overwhelming enough, nine Algona athletes carried the ball at least once. It was unfortunately a night to forget for the usually stout Greene County defense, a unit that came in holding opponents well below 15 points per game.
But Algona’s incredible blocking scheme, along with their execution and pure speed, left the Rams grasping for air throughout the quarterfinal contest. Combined with their shocking size, Algona made for a long night defensively.
“They were really big up front and very physical,” Greene County head coach Caden Duncan said. “They (had) a bunch of linemen (that) really wanted to get after it and hit.
They were definitely a little bit bigger than what they looked like on tape and definitely faster. We knew that we weren’t going to be able to match up man for man. So we were just going to try to bring it to them. We ended up having some trouble with it. Nothing really surprised me, (Algona is) just really really good.”
Algona entered the contest averaging 282 rushing yards per game, and they were certainly right on par, often bursting through the Greene County defensive line completely untouched. Algona continues to lead Class 2A in rushing by a wide margin. They’ve tallied 3,222 yards (292.9ypg) in 11 games to go with a remarkable 52 rushing touchdowns (4.7 per game).
Greene County two-way lineman, Tyler Miller, who’s committed to play football next fall at Iowa State University, was impressed with how well Algona’s offensive line executed. It was clearly a unit that knew their roles, and performed at a near perfect level.
“They had some good guys. I don’t really know how to (respond to what they did), but they had really good pullers,” Miller said. “They were able to do their schemes right and their technique was good. They were a well coached team and they were able to execute their plays the way they needed to right.”
Algona’s Monte Bawden led the way last Friday with 144 yards (12 ypc) and a touchdown while Wyatt Wegener scored three times in addition to tallying 103 yards on 11 carries (9.4 ypc). The senior is fourth in the state with 1,321 yards and 23 touchdowns to go with a 13.6 yards per carry average.
The Bulldogs sprinted out a massive 28-0 midway through the second quarter and never looked back. It was that remarkable speed from a seemingly endless supply of running backs that really caught the Rams off-guard. The lineman opened up wide holes, but it was how quickly the Bulldogs backs burst through space that made the difference. Algona had little trouble reaching the second level, untouched with plenty of room to maneuver. It was often a foot race after that as evidenced by the Bulldogs’ 9.1 yards per carry average.
“Their speed, we really how evident that was,” Duncan said. “When you have two guys that are state track, sprinter type guys, and a bunch of other guys around them that are pretty athletic, they are just tough. They execute really well. So the combination of those two things just kind of made it their night.”
Greene County had a handful of opportunities to jump back in the contest, but the Ram offense could never quite gain traction. They finally cracked the scoreboard with a late first half touchdown, trimming Algona’s lead to 28-7 at the break, but never inched any closer. Record-setting wide receiver Carter Morton, who scored four total touchdowns in the Rams first round win over Des Moines Christian, was nearly silenced throughout the quarterfinals, hauling in just three catches for nine yards and no touchdowns.
The Rams fell behind by four scores before they could essentially blink, leaving quite the significant hill to climb. An array of short, opening drives and sustained runs that ended in turnovers on downs didn’t help much, either. The combination of stalled drives and poor field position gave Algona several advantages.
“(We didn’t) finish when we had those opportunities,” Duncan said. “A couple of times our offense drove it down and then we either got a penalty or had a bad play. All of a sudden, we are looking at a bad situation.
Duncan continued, “We just didn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we did have. That’s what happens when you play a really good team. They capitalized when we did not.”
Greene County quarterback Brent Riley threw for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns (one each to Nick Breon and Will Hansen), pushing his season total to a Greene County school-record 2,333 yards (fifth in 2A) and 31 touchdowns. Running back Colby Kafer rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries, producing a yards per carry average of 6.6. Last Friday’s total moved him to second in the state with a school-record 1,484 yards. Linebacker Will Hansen led the Rams in tackles with 11, pushing his season-total to a team-best 77 takedowns.
A brilliant Greene County campaign, which started with an 8-0 run and a top four ranking, came a bitter end in the loss. The Rams set all sorts of records along the way, thanks to a group of athletes that will be remembered for decades moving forward. For Miller, it’s not the wins and remarkable accomplishments that will stick with him, but the relationships he built over these last few years.
“All the senior guys, going to their houses after games and hanging out,” the future Big 12 offensive lineman said. “This was probably my favorite season, hands down. The last couple of seasons, we laid the foundation, but this one was the stepping stone. I was able to enjoy it more.”
Algona advanced to the 2A state semifinals where fell to fourth-seeded and District 9 champion, OA-BCIG (12-0), 41-32. The Falcons will take on top-seeded Waukon in Friday's 2A state title game.