Regina Gets Title Game Rematch With Western Christian
Jake Phillips defense a Pella Christian receiver in a quarterfinal game on Nov. 4. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Regina has seen it all during its six-run state title run.
The Regals have faced power running teams and spread out passing attacks, regular season rematches and rivalry showdowns.
Regina gets a new challenge on Friday in its quest to add a seventh consecutive state title to its unprecedented championship run.
For the first time during its string of six consecutive titles Regina (11-1) will face a title game rematch when it faces 2015 runner-up Western Christian (11-1) in the Class 1A title game at 11:06 a.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“We saw them up close last year and they are talented guys,” Cook said. “They faced us last year so they know what they are in for, we know what we are in for so it’s going to be a tough, tough game.”
Western Christian fell to Regina 35-28 in its first title game appearance in school history last year.
The fifth-ranked Wolfpack earned a rematch with top-ranked Regina with an impressive 35-14 win over No. 4 Van Meter in the semifinals.
The rematch marks the first time that the same two teams have met in the 1A title game in consecutive years and is the first title game rematch in any class since Solon defeated Central Lyon/George Little Rock in back-to-back 2A titles games in 2007 and 2008.
“We knew from week one that they were going to be the team to beat,” Regina senior lineman Jared Brinkman said. “They showed it in their last game.”
With five starters returning on each side the ball from last year’s runner-up team Western Christian provides a familiar look for Regina.
The returning personnel isn’t the only reason the Wolfpack looks familiar to Cook and the Regina staff.
Cook sees plenty of similarities between Western Christian and his own team.
“Obviously, they play the game really hard, they play fast they play physical just like us,” Cook said. “They are extremely well coached, they have great schemes a lot of what we do running the ball wise and a lot of what we do throwing the ball wise so it’s going to be a kind of a little mirror image of the programs.”
The two teams have followed a similar path back to the title game.
Both teams have won 11 straight games after season opening losses to rivals from larger classes.
Regina opened the season with a 35-26 loss to 3A semifinalist Cedar Rapids Xavier while Western Christian fell to 2A finalist Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley 32-13 in its opener.
Since then both teams have been perfect on their way to a UNI-Dome rematch.
“We know they’ve been looking forward to this game since last year,” Regina senior Reagan Ries said. “They are going to come out ready to play and we have to come out ready to play and it’s just going to be a fight.”
Both teams enter the title game among the top offensive squads in Class 1A.
Led by senior quarterback Tyson Kooima the Wolfpack are averaging 401 yards and 39 points per game.
Kooima (6-0, 190) has passed for 2,296 yards and 36 touchdowns this season and rushed for 601 yards and six scores.
“He’s amazing,” Cook said of Kooima. “He has a great arm, he can make the throws. He throws the ball on time and in an offense like that it’s critical and then the great thing about him is when it breaks down he is really, really dynamic when he tucks it and goes with it.”
The Wolfpack are far more than a one-man show.
Western Christian is the only team in 1A with a 2,000-yard passer, a 1,500 rusher and a receiver with 950 yards.
Junior Ben Granstra (6-2, 185) has rushed for 1,623 yards and 20 touchdowns and senior Ben Gesink (6-4, 170) has caught 40 passes for 968 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Granstra rushed for 202 yards in the semifinals as Western Christian rolled up 460 yards of offense and 35 points against a Van Meter defense that entered with seven shutouts and allowing 4.6 points per game.
“They are a fast, athletic team and they like to spread you out,” Ries said. “They try to use their skill players, they aren’t the most physical team but they are fast and they play hard so it’s going to be a battle to see who can come out on top.”
Western Christian defense has been nearly as impressive on defense.
Since allowing 387 yards in its season opener the Wolfpack has given up more than 300 yards just twice and is holding teams to 241 total yards and 14.4 points per game on the season.
Using its 3-5 alignment the Wolfpack held Van Mater to 223 yards in a semifinal win.
“I think they are really, really sound,” Cook said. “They are tough kids, they play aggressively but I think they are really sound in what they are doing.”