It was well publicized that Van Meter had never played in a state championship game. However, that did not deter these Bulldogs from pursuing and attaining the goal they established for themselves at the beginning of the season. Even as they faced a team, Iowa City Regina, that was playing in their 8th consecutive championship game. The Bulldogs continued to utilize a game plan of ball control and big plays on offense along with a stifling defense that forced four turnovers and negated the Regal big plays to march their way to Van Meter’s first state championship on the gridiron.
Regina received the opening kickoff but struggled on its opening drive and was forced to punt. Van Meter ran into the same issue as both teams were trying to figure each other out and punted on our opening possession as well. The Regals found some success on their second drive, but following two incomplete passes from the Bulldog 42 yard line, they again gave it back to Van Meter. Following an excellent Regina punt, the Bulldogs were forced to take over on their own 6 yard line. However, it didn’t take long for the Bulldog offense to shift into high gear. Following a 5 yard run on 1st down by Carson Rhodes, Anthony Lowman took a handoff around right end and zig-zagged his way for a 63 yard run behind outstanding team blocking at the line of scrimmage as well as all the way down the field. Three plays later on 3rd and 1, Blake Fryar found Sam Thompson behind the defense for a 22 yard scoring pass with 1:46 left in the 1st quarter. Following Sam Bardwell’s PAT, Van Meter jumped to a 7-0 lead.
While the Regals next drive appeared to have a promising start as they reached midfield, they found themselves in a 4th and 1 situation. Regina seemed to have enough for the first down on a quarterback sneak, however with the pile still moving, Connor Guess stripped the ball out of the quarterback’s arms and recovered the fumble to stop the Regal drive. Unfortunately, Van Meter’s offense was unable to take advantage and was forced to punt. It didn’t take long to get the Bulldog offense back on the field as their stingy defense again produced another Regina turnover. On 3rd & 9 from their own 31, the Regina QB was flushed out of the pocket to his right where his pass was intercepted by a waiting Sam Thompson on a diving interception at the Regal 35 yard line. Van Meter’s offense wasted no time as on the very next play they found the end zone in a most unconventional way. Fryar’s pass ended up be substantially under-thrown and appeared that it would be intercepted by the Regina defender. However, the defensive back for the Regals couldn’t secure the wobbly pass so it bounced off his hands and then deflected off his own foot right into the waiting hands of Jack Trudo at the Regina 7 yard line. Trudo broke one more tackle and 5 yards later found himself in the end zone. Bardwell connected for the PAT and the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 14-0 at halftime.
Van Meter received the opening kickoff of the 2nd half, but this half started much the same way the 1st half began with both teams exchanging punts. However, the key difference came as Van Meter lined up to receive the Regina punt. Lowman caught the ball on his own 37 yard line, made the first defender miss and wasn’t touched again until he was tackled on the Regal 13 yard line to set up the Van Meter offense with outstanding field position. The Bulldogs capitalized on this opportunity and 4 plays later Rhodes powered his way into the end zone on a 2 yard run. Bardwell again tacked on the PAT and Van Meter found itself up three scores at 21-0.
Regina opened the 4th quarter with the ball on their own 26 yard line as both teams exchanged punts once again. The Regals knew they needed to score quickly to get back in the game, which they did as they marched 74 yards on only 4 plays. The Regal’s Isaac Vollstedt (who lead all rushers with 154 yards on 21 carries) finally found a seam in Bulldog defense and ran 46 yards to get Regina on the scoreboard and cut the Bulldog lead to 21-7. However, Van Meter would not let this shake their confidence as they received the ensuing kickoff. But it still wasn’t easy as the Bulldogs immediately faced a 3rd & 8 from their own 37 yard line. As Fryar rolled to his right, he couldn’t find an open receiver so he tucked the ball away, found a seam in the Regal defense and scampered 15 yard for a critical first down. From that point on, the Bulldogs executed a punishing drive that saw Rhodes carry the ball a total of six times with the final carry being a 14 yard run to pay dirt. Bardwell again knocked it through the uprights and Van Meter held a commanding 28-7 lead with only 7:23 to play in the game.
Regina marched into Bulldog territory one final time, but was again denied on an interception in the end zone by Cade Costlow. Van Meter took over on their own 35 yard line and proceed to get two game clinching first downs. Following the second first down and with Regina out of timeouts, the Bulldogs lined up in the victory formation to take a final knee and bring home the state title!
Van Meter held an offensive advantage of 317 total yards to only 230 yards for Regina. Carson Rhodes was the Bulldogs leading rusher gaining 122 yards on 30 carries. Blake Fryar added 63 yards on the ground on only 6 carries, while going 6 for 11 for 76 yards through the air with 2 touchdowns. Anthony Lowman also had 135 all purpose yards (58 rushing, 15 receiving & 62 yards on punt returns). On the other side of the ball, the Bulldog defense limited the Regals big-play air attack to only 53 yards on 10 for 25 passing with 3 interceptions. The loss dropped the Regals to 10-3 and the state runner-up for the second consecutive year.
Van Meter finishes a perfect season at 13-0 and are your 2017 Class 1A State Champions!
Van Meter’s defensive leaders for the game included:
Sam Thompson – 8 Solo Tackles, 7 Asst Tackles (including 1 Solo TFL & 1 Asst Sack) & 1 INT
Chris Reames – 2 Solo Tackles, 8 Asst Tackles
Cameron Smolik – 2 Solo Tackles, 2 Asst Tackles (including 2 Asst TFL)
Anthony Lowman – 3 Asst Tackles (including 1 Asst TFL & 1 Asst Sack)
Derek Golwitzer – 5 Asst Tackles
Connor Guess – 3 Asst Tackles (including 1 Asst TFL) & 1 Recovered Fumble
Owen Jones – 1 Solo Tackle, 4 Asst Tackles
Cade Costlow – 6 Asst Tackles & 1 INT
Owen Crawford – 1 Solo Tackle, 3 Asst Tackles (including 1 Asst TFL)
Noah Hale – 1 Solo Tackles, 3 Asst Tackles
JJ Durflinger – 1 Asst Tackle & 1 INT
Please click on the following link for complete offensive and defensive stats from the game: Van Meter 28 – Regina, Iowa City 7 (Game Stats)
The 2017 Van Meter Football team established the following new team records:
– First Undefeated Season in VM History
– Most Wins in a Single Season (13)
– Most Points Scored in a Season (506)
– Tied for Fewest Points Allowed in a Season (83)
– Fewest Points Allowed Per Game (6.4)
Thank you for supporting the Bulldogs throughout the 2017 season and all the way to championship! WE ARE VAN METER!
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