Dominant Defense Sends Regina Back to Title Game
Jake Phillips makes a tackle against Pella Christian. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
CEDAR FALLS – It was the Regina offense that stole the show in a quarterfinal win over Pella Christian.
In Saturday’s Class 1A semifinal the Regal defense returned to center stage.
After giving up a season-high 43 points in a wild win over Pella Christian last week, Regina allowed just 175 total yards in an emphatic 42-6 win over the third-ranked Denver (11-1) at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Top-ranked Regina (11-1) held Denver to 105 yards on the ground, 240 below the Cyclones’ season average while returning to the state title game for the seventh straight season.
“That is one of the best defensive efforts that we’ve had all year long,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “Denver is a phenomenal football team, their kids up front they get it, their timing is good, they have great identity, they know who they are and I thought it was the best effort our front seven has put together the whole year.”
The Regina offense had its moments on Saturday.
Junior quarterback Michael Conlon passed for 285 yards and three touchdowns as Regina rolled up 494 yards of total offense.
However, this game was all about the defense.
Regina held a Denver offense that entered averaging 41.9 points and 404 yards per game scoreless for more than three quarters and forced the Cyclones to go three and out on six of their first nine possessions.
“I think our defense wanted to prove something,” Conlon said. “I think they wanted to send a message to the state.”
The message was sent early by the Regina defense.
Denver came into the game ranked third in 1A averaging 345 rushing yards per game while gaining 7.1 yards per carry.
Regina held the Cyclones to 105 yards on 35 attempts and didn’t a run longer than 13 yards until a 41-yard touchdown run by Eli Barrett in the final five minutes.
“After giving up 43 points last week we wanted to make sure we locked down on defense this week,” Regina senior Trae Rogers said. “When our starters were in we didn’t give up anything so I think we did pretty well.”
The six points, 105 rushing yards and 175 total yards were all season lows for Denver which hadn’t rushed for less than 219 yards in a game this season.
“You know what they are going to do they are just going to pound it and we took that as a challenge week,” Regina senior defensive tackle Jared Brinkman said. “We wanted to show the state we had the better line and I think we executed.”
Regina used quick strikes on offense to jump to a 21-0 lead with three one-play touchdown drives in a span of less than nine minutes at the end of the first and start of the second quarter.
Jack Jensen snapped a scoreless tie when he caught a short hitch and turned it up field for a 72-yard touchdown with 5:30 left in the opening quarter.
I feel like that play was a big momentum swing,” Jensen said. “I caught it and made one guy miss and I knew my teammates would come block down field. I saw green grass and made the play.”
The Regina defense set up the next score as Jake Phillips picked off a Barrett pass and returned it 29 yards to the Cyclone 9 yard line.
On the first play following the interception Conlon scored on a 9-yard run to put the Regals up 14-0.
“We were making big plays when we needed them,” Brinkman said. “We came up with a much needed pick to get our lead to 14 and I think that just brought our momentum up and we really played sound football.”
Regina wasted no time piling on.
Andrew Hingst knocked the ball away from Barrett on the ensuing Denver possession and Daniel Sullivan recovered at the 49.
On the first play following the turnover Conlon connected with Noah Felderman on a 49-yard touchdown pass on a reverse pass that put Regina up 21-0 with 9:05 left in the first half.
The touchdown strike to Felderman was the third pass of more than 40 yards for Regina in the opening 15 minutes of the game.
“It’s a big play game anymore,” Cook said. “Jack makes the hitch route and makes a guy miss and gets loose and then we come back and score again and then the trick play and it kind of got snowballing a little bit for them.”
Regina added a touchdown on a 6-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 20-yard Isaac Vollstedt touchdown run with 4:46 to play in the first half.
The Regals marched 60 yards in seven plays on its first possession of the second half, taking a 35-0 lead that activated the continuous clock on a 21-yard touchdown strike from Conlon to Rogers.
“We are really starting to hit our stride a little bit,” Cook said. “Everybody has played great at times but not great collectively and we are starting to put it all together.”
Vollstedt finished with 111 yards on 11 carries as Regina rushed for 209 yards. Jensen caught six passes for 96 yards while Rogers had four grabs for 74 yards.
“I had faith in our offensive line that they would be able to get a push,” Vollstedt said. “They certainly did throughout the whole game.”
First downs 23 11
Rushes-yards 37-209 35-105
Passing yards 285 70
Total yards 494 175
Comp-att-int 16-24-0 9-18-1
Fumbles-lost 4-2 1-1
Penalties-yards 3-28 2-20
Regina 7 21 7 7 – 42
Denver 0 0 0 6 – 6
ICR – Jack Jensen 72 pass from Michael Conlon (Sam Stein kick)
ICR – Conlon 9 run (Stein kick)
ICR – Noah Felderman 49 pass from Conlon (Stein kick)
ICR – Isaac Vollstedt 20 run (Stein kick)
ICR – Trae Rogers 21 pass from Conlon (Stein kick)
ICR – Kieler Brown 16 run (Stein kick)
DEN – Eli Barrett 41 run (Kick failed)
Rushing – ICR: Isaac Vollstedt 11-111, Michael Conlon 8-24, Kieler Brown 5-32, Jake Phillips 3-21, Mason Simpson 3-10, Patrick Clark 2-10, Scott Blondin 1-0, Scott Arndt 1-(-1), Team 1-(-10). DEN: Eli Barrett 15-63, Bo McMahon 15-44, Fletcher Anderson 1-5, Devon Lund 2-(-2), Sam Joerger 2-(-5).
Passing – ICR: Michael Conlon 16-24-0 285. DEN: Eli Barrett 9-18-1 70.
Receiving – ICR: Jack Jensen 6-96, Trae Rogers 4-74, Noah Felderman 2-62, Jake Phillips 1-25, Isaac Vollstedt 1-11, Brady Bigley 1-10, Christian Iben 1-7. DEN: Bo McMahon 3-13, Zach Miller 2-19, Sam Joerger 1-16, Devon Lund 1-10, Fletcher Anderson 1-8, Blake Ryherd 1-4.