Isaac Vollstedt runs against Pella Christian in a 1A quarterfinal on Nov. 4. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The rematch is set in Class 1A.
Six-time defending champion and top-ranked Regina (11-1) will try to add to its title count on Friday when it meets fifth-ranked Western Christian (11-1) in the 1A title game at 11:06 at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Last year Regina claimed its fourth straight 1A title and sixth consecutive state title when it held off Western Christian 35-28.
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 title games in 2007 and 2008.
Both teams bring 11-game winning streaks into the title matchup after opening the season with losses to teams from larger classes.
Here are five things to watch that will determine if Regina retains its 1A crown for another year or if Western Christian can take advantage of its second shot at the champs.
A two-way starter at quarterback and linebacker senior Tyson Kooima does a lot for Western Christian.
What the senior has done better than anyone in the state this season is throw touchdown passes.
The brother of Western Christian head coach Travis Kooima, Tyson has passed for 2,296 yards this season and leads all classes with 36 touchdown passes.
Kooima is a true dual threat, adding 601 rushing yards and six touchdowns to rank seventh in the state in total yardage.
Regina has seen up close what the 6-foot, 190-pound Kooima can do. He passed for 237 yards and four touchdowns in the state title game last year.
“He is very dynamic,” Regina senior defensive back Trae Rogers said. “He’s a dual threat he can run the ball and he can throw the ball for sure so we just have to make sure we lock up our guys down the field.”
Containing Kooima is the key to slowing a Western Christian offense that is averaging 39 points and 401 yards per game.
Kooima is perhaps most dangerous throwing when he is out of the pocket and is averaging 19.5 yards per completion this season.
“We need to try to stop them from making big plays,” Regina senior defensive back Jack Jensen said. “Their quarterback likes to scramble a lot and he can throw it on the run so we have to stay on our guys when he is scrambling and play sound defense.”
The Regina secondary will be tested by Kooima and a talented group of Western Christian receivers.
So far this season the Regals defensive back field has passed every test.
Regina ranks fifth in the state and second in Class 1A with 21 interceptions on the season while allowing just 10 touchdowns through the air.
Senior Brady Bigley leads Regina and ranks second in 1A with seven interceptions on the year.
Jack Jensen intercepts a pass against Pella Christian. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports.Four of the passing touchdown allowed by Regina came in a quarterfinal win over Pella Christian. The Eagles are the only team to pass for more than 162 yards against the Regals this season throwing for 375 yards but Regina came up with five interceptions in that contest.
A year after throwing 16 interceptions, including one in the state title tame, Kooima has cut down his turnovers this season throwing 10 interceptions.
Turnovers will again be critical in a matchup of explosive offenses.
“They throw a lot, they spread you out and they have a lot of athletes on the field,” Jensen said. “When they pass hopefully we can make some plays on the ball and show them that our secondary can make some plays.”
Sticking to the Script
A year ago Regina rolled up a season-high 370 rushing yards in the title game win over Western Christian.
With an offensive line that ranks among the best in the state and a healthy Isaac Vollstedt in the backfield don’t expect the Regals to deviate from that plan on Friday.
Though, running the football is always the plan for the Regals.
“I think any team that we play this year that’s the plan is to try to wear on them with our offensive line,” Regina senior center Jared Brinkman said. “It’s easier when you have great skills guys and it’s going to be a battle in the trenches.”
The battle up front will be key this season as Western Christian attempts to slow down a Regina ground game power by Vollstedt that is averaging 258 rushing yards per game.
Vollstedt has rushed for 100 yards in three straight playoff games and needs 75 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.
In three playoff games Vollstedt is averaging 141 yards per game and 6.2 yards per carry.
Regina faces a Western Christian defense that is holding opponents to 106 yards per game on the ground and gives up just 2.8 yards per attempt.
The Wolfpack has allowed more than 200 yards rushing one time this season.
The Western Christian offense has sparkled in its return to the 1A title game but it has been an aggressive Wolfpack defense that has been the biggest key in a second straight title game appearance.
Western Christian is holding teams to 241 yards per game with its attacking 3×5 scheme and has forced 28 turnovers on the season.
Four of the five starting linebackers in the aggressive 3×5 alignment rank in the top six on the team in tackles for Western Christian.
“It’s one of those defenses where they can stop you five or six times in a row for nothing and then you can break one,” Brinkman said. “We are just going to have to play really well on the offensive line and give our skill guys a chance.”
Take What You Get
Make no mistake, the game plan for Regina is to run the football.
As the Regals showed in their semifinal win over Denver if they need to throw the ball they are more than comfortable doing that as well.
Junior quarterback Michael Conlon had the best game of his career in the 42-6 semifinal win over Denver completing 15-of-23 passes for a career-high 277 yards and three touchdowns.
Conlon will need to be sharp against a Western Christian defense anxious to atone for the 370 rushing yards it allowed in last year’s title game.
“If they are going to force us to throw the ball we are comfortable doing that and we are comfortable with the packages we have in place and comfortable with the guys we have running it,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “In a perfect world we going to take what the defense gives us.”