Regina senior Jack Jensen scores a touchdown Friday in the 1A state title game. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
CEDAR FALLS – It took two tries but Western Christian finally stopped the longest title streak in state history.
Ben Granstra rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns and Tyson Kooima threw for a pair of scores as fifth-ranked Western Christian (12-2) snapped a string of six straight state titles for Regina with a 47-34 win on Friday in the Class 1A championship at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
The first state title in program history for Western Christian comes one year after Regina edged the Wolfpack 35-28 for its sixth straight title.
“Last year was close, we had a shot at the end and it kind of fell through,” Western Christian senior Ben Gesink said. “This year we just knew we were able to compete with them so I think that gave us a lot of confidence.”
Top-ranked Regina (11-2) had a 33-game postseason winning streak snapped with the loss, its first to a team in its same class since falling to Solon in the Class 2A quarterfinals in 2009.
Regina set the state’s longest winning streak at 56 straight during its six-year title run that began with back-to-back 2A titles in 2010 and 2011
On Friday the Regals were a 25 minutes away from a seventh straight title leading 27-19 with under a minute to play in the first half but saw Western Christian rattle off 22 unanswered points.
“I told our kids it is one of those games where both teams deserve to win but one team is going to,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “Our kids didn’t lose they just didn’t win today. I am very, very proud of them the way they acted and the way they prepared all season long.”
Regina rushed for 296 yards, 189 coming from junior Isaac Vollstedt, and had 424 yards of total offense but couldn’t overcome five turnovers, 10 penalties and a determined Western Christian squad.
Three of Regina’s second half possessions ended in turnovers as Western Christian held the Regals to seven points in the final two quarters.
“That happens and the good teams are good enough to overcome it but it’s hard to overcome it against a great team,” Cook said of the turnovers. “We made some mistakes that we normally don’t make but that’s football. Good teams force you into sometimes making poor decisions.”
Western Christian had its own miscues on Friday including four fumbles but made big plays late to become the first team other than Regina to win the 1A title since Saint Ansgar in 2011.
Granstra had second-half touchdown runs of 4 and 1 yards and helped the Wolfpack chew up yards and clock in the final two quarters.
Western Christian finished with 227 rushing yards and held the ball for more than 28 minutes, including 15:05 in the second half.
Isaac Vollstedt and Jack Jensen celebrate. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports.
“For some reason our linemen got an attitude this week,” Granstra said. “Even in practice you could tell they were just going hard and they knew they had to step up against their good line.”
Regina struck first when Vollstedt scored on a 13-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 71-yard interception return by Jack Jensen.
Jensen grabbed a tipped pass inside the Regina 15 yard line and returned it all the way to the Wolfpack 15.
“It was tipped and I just grabbed it with one hand and I saw open field so I took off,” Jensen said. “Isaac was there and got me a good block.”
Two plays later Vollstedt scored to put Regina up 7-0 with 5:25 left in the first quarter.
Regina was threatening to go up two scores when the first of five Regal turnovers flipped the momentu.
Gesink scooped up a Michael Conlon fumble and raced 42 yards untouched down the middle of the field to tie the score at 7 with 43 seconds left in the first quarter.
“All of a sudden I saw the ball loose and it was just laying there,” Gesink said. “I said ‘why not’ I just went and grabbed it. It was huge because they had a little momentum going and they were starting to go down the field. It just flipped the momentum and showed we had a chance.”
The rest of the first half was back-and-forth.
Regina appeared to grab the momentum before half when Jensen hauled in a 68-yard touchdown pass from Conlon with 1:37 left in the first half.
Western Christian answered with a 5-play, 62-yard game-tying drive that ended with a 3-yard TD run by Granstra with 21 seconds left before halftime.
Western opened the second half with a 10-play, 72-yard drive capped by a 4-yard Granstra run that gave the Wolfpack a 34-27 lead it would never give up.
“That first half was just a roller coaster for both teams and the second half we just kept plugging away and we kept making big plays when we needed to and our defense got some big stops at some big times,” Western Christian coach Travis Kooima said. “I was just proud of the effort.”
Jack Jensen hauls in a pass in the 1A title game. Jeff Yoder/For Your Prep Sports.
Western Christian took control early in the fourth quarter.
The Wolfpack stopped Vollstedt for no gain on fourth-and-two at the 45 yard line and five plays later Kooima connected with Gesink for a 23-yard touchdown pass to make it 41-27 with 7:40 left.
Kooima lofted the ball into double coverage and Gesink made a late adjustment to complete a sliding catch.
“Normally when I run that route I always kind of tail off to the outside,” Gesink said. “Tyson threw it inside and away from the defenders and I don’t think they were ready for that so I just dove for it and was able to get it.”
Regina answered with a 11-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard scoring run by Vollstedt with 5:07 left.
Western Christian put the finishing touches on its first title with an 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard plunge by Granstra.
Regina had a chance to get the ball back down a score but on fourth-and-seven from the 27 Kooima connected with Gesink for 27 yards down to the 1 yard line.
We were still in it and they make beautiful throw down the sideline and a kid makes a great diving catch at the 1-yard line to put the game away. They won the game in my opinion,” Cook said. “They played extremely well.”
Granstra carried eight times for 27 yards on the game-clinching drive that took nearly four minutes off the clock.
“That last drive our offensive line just made a push and I could run behind them,” Granstra said. “Definitely hats off to our linemen.”
Regina Western Christian
First downs 18 26
Rushes-yards 40-296 48-227
Passing yards 128 209
Total yards 424 436
Comp-att-int 8-19-3 17-30-3
Fumbles-lost 4-2 2-1
Penalties-yards 10-61 4-28
Regina 7 20 0 7 – 34
Western Christian 7 20 7 13 – 47
ICR – Isaac Vollstedt 13 run (Sam Stein kick)
WC – Ben Gesink 42 fumble return (Chris Baccam kick)
WC – Tyson Kooima 5 run (Kick blocked)
ICR – Michael Conlon 18 run (Sam Stein kick)
WC – Jesse Jansma 11 pass from Kooima (Run failed)
ICR – Vollstedt 5 run (Run failed)
ICR – Jensen 68 pass from Conlon (Stein kick)
WC – Ben Granstra 3 run (Gesink pass from Kooima)
WC – Granstra 4 run (Baccam kick)
WC – Gesink 23 pass from Kooima (Baccam kick)
ICR – Vollstedt 2 run (Stein kick)
WC – Granstra 1 run (Kick blocked)
Rushing – ICR: Isaac Vollstedt 23-189, Michael Conlon 12-77, Mason Simpson 4-24, Jacob Phillips 1-6. WC: Ben Granstra 39-180, Tyson Kooima 5-49, Daniel Donovan 1-2, Team 3-(-4).
Passing – ICR: Michael Conlon 8-19-3 128. WC: Tyson Kooima 17-30-3 209.
Receiving – ICR: Jack Jensen 4-91, Trae Rogers 2-22, Christian Iben 1-17, Mason Simpson 1-(-2). WC: Jesse Jansma 8-61, Ben Gesink 6-110, Justin Grevengoed 2-29, Micah VanOtterloo 1-9.