Regina celebrates its win over Pella Christian. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Last week Regina passed its toughest test of the postseason to date with a 45-43 win over second-ranked Pella Christian and its explosive passing attack in the Class 1A quarterfinals.
This week the top-ranked Regals are literally looking at an even bigger task.
Regina (10-1) will face its largest opponent of the season on Saturday when it takes on third-ranked Denver (11-0) and its mammoth offensive line in the 1A semifinals at 10:06 am in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“It’s the biggest line we have seen in 10 years of high school football,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “They are big and they come off the ball. They know what they are doing and they know their identity and who they so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Anchored by seniors Mason Neisen (6-5, 325) and Spencer Smith (6-3, 340) the Denver line is one of the biggest in the state.
The Cyclones aren’t just big, they are productive.
Denver ranks third in Class 1A averaging 345 rushing yards per game and has rushed for more than 300 yards in each of its last nine games.
The Cyclones rolled up 347 yards on the ground in a 34-6 win over quarterfinal win over Bellevue to reach the semifinals for the third straight season after appearing in the Class A semifinals each of the past two years.
“They have two or three guys around 300 pounds and they move pretty well too,” Regina senior Reagan Ries said. “They are physical team; they are bigger than us and I don’t know if we have seen that all year so that’s going to be a challenge but I think we are up for the challenge.”
The grind it out ground game will be a significant shift in scenery from what the Regals saw in the quarterfinals against Pella Christian.
Led by quarterback David Kacmarynski and explosive receiver Levi Jungling, Pella Christian ranked second in Class 1A in passing yards.
After prepping for one of the top passing attacks in the state the Regals shift their focus to a team that has attempted just 94 passes on the season, seventh fewest in Class 1A.
“It’s definitely a challenge, it’s a big difference going from one scheme to another,” Regina senior defensive back Trae Rogers said. “We are a pretty versatile team so I think we will be able to adjust well.”
So far this season Regina has been up to nearly every challenge on defense.
After allowing 386 rushing yards to Class 3A second-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier in the season opener Regina has allowed more than 200 yards rushing just one time.
The Regals are holding teams to 138 rushing yards per game on the season while allowing 4.4 yards per carry.
Those numbers will be tested on Saturday against a Denver squad that averages 7.1 yards per carry on a Class 1A leading 536 attempts.
“These guys run it something like 85 percent of the time so it’s going to be a battle in the trenches this week and that’s what we love,” Ries said. “It gives us a chance to show some dominance.”
Four of the five starters on the Denver offensive line are over 275 pounds and taller than 6-foot.
The starting five average 296 pounds per player and have paved the way for four different players to rush for 100 yards in a game this season.
Going against bigger players will be new for an imposing Regina defensive front that includes the 270-pound Ries and senior all stater Jared Brinkman (6-2, 270).
“They are 6-foot-5, 320 big and they move, they are pretty agile for as big as they are,” Cook said. “It’s going to be a good test. Our guys are going to love it. Ries and Jared (Brinkman) are going to love that battle and that contest. It’s going to be a 48-minute game.”
The Cyclones have used a trio of runners to chew up yards behind the big offensive line. Denver doesn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher but has three players that have run for more than 880 yards.
The running back combination of Sam Joerger (6-0, 175) and Bo McMahon (5-11, 185) has produced a combined 1,888 yards and 19 touchdowns while senior quarterback Eli Barrett has rushed for 888 yards and 16 scores.
A third back, Fletcher Anderson (6-1, 190) has rushed for 471 yards and 15 scores.
“They have three backs in the back field and it’s almost like a goal line alignment to some extent,” Cook said. “They have a really good back and their quarterback is a good athlete and they can get to the edge in a hurry.”