With a trip to the UNI-Dome on the line, Van Meter hosted the West Branch Bears this past Friday night in a 2018 IHSAA Quarterfinal match-up. These two teams have combined for over 50 playoff wins over the years, so both teams brought strong football traditions into this game. The Bulldogs entered the contest at a perfect 10-0 while the Bears sported a 9-1 record, so both teams knew this would be a very tough contest.
Van Meter received the opening kickoff and established their strong running game early in the game. After an incomplete pass to start the drive, the Bulldogs would call 9 consecutive running plays to march 74 yards and score on a 1 yard TD run by Ian Abrahamson on 4th and 1 from the 1-yard line. Sam Bardwell would kick the PAT and the Bulldogs would grab the early lead 7-0. West Branch boasted one of the most prolific passing attacks in Class 1A and they came out attacking with the pass early. However, Van Meter’s defense would force a punt on the Bear’s first possession. The Bulldog offense wouldn’t waste any time finding the end zone for their second score of the game as Anthony Potthoff would find Zach Drummond for a 69-yard touchdown reception. And after Bardwell’s PAT, Van Meter would lead 14-0 with 4:20 remaining in the 1st quarter.
After forcing another punt after only 3 plays on West Branch’s next possession, Van Meter would put together another run-heavy drive that would span the end of the 1st quarter and almost half of the start of the 2nd quarter. This time Potthoff would cap off a 74 yard 14 play drive with a 5-yard toss to Spencer Lamb in the corner of the end zone. Bardwell would again put the PAT through the uprights and the Bulldogs would stretch their lead to 21-0. However, West Branch would not go quietly as they struck for their first score of the game just 50 seconds later on a 46-yard touchdown pass to draw within 21-7. The Bulldogs would then proceed to literally run out the rest of the 1st half on a 68-yard drive that took 17 plays and 7:03 off the clock. Van Meter would then face a 4th and goal from the 15-yard line and the Bulldogs would call on Bardwell to attempt his first FG of the season. He would calmly step up and make the 31-yard field goal to send Van Meter to halftime with a solid 24-7 lead.
The second half would see West Branch fight until the very end with the Bears scoring on their opening possession of the 3rd quarter on a 4-yard run to pull them within 24-14. However, all Van Meter would do is put together yet another 10+ play drive to respond. The Bulldogs chose to lean heavily on their strong offensive line with 14 consecutive running plays to cover the 71 yards to the end zone. Ian Abrahamson would get his second touchdown of the game on another 1-yard run, and following the Bardwell PAT, Van Meter would lead 31-14 with 1:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter. After both teams exchanged punts on each team’s next 2 possessions, the Bears would make one final attempt for a miracle finish as they would score on a 64 yard TD pass with 4:29 remaining in the game to make the score 31-21. However, following an onside kick attempt by the Bears that was recovered by Van Meter senior Quinn Corcoran, the Bulldogs would proceed to run out the final 4:29 of the game and move on to the Class 1A Semifinals with a 31-21 victory.
Van Meter’s offense accumulated 417 total yards on a staggering 79 plays, with 331 yards on the ground. The Bulldog offensive line of Ryan Schmitt, Tyler Erdman, Brett Berg, Noah Miller and Sam Miller provided the engine for this offensive output, with the Bulldog receivers also doing their part with blocking downfield, as Ian Abrahamson would carry the ball 47 times (a new school record for carries in a single game) for a career-high 244 yards. Anthony Potthoff would add the remaining 88 yards with his legs on 21 carries to go along with 4 for 8 passing for 86 yards and 2 TD passes. The most telling stat of the game might be the time of possession where the Bulldogs held onto the ball for 36:35 to only 11:25 for the Bears, as Van Meter had four scoring drives of 10+ plays and 68+ yards.
Van Meter’s defense continued to be solid even though they did give up some big plays, allowing West Branch 3 plays of more than 45 yards: 46-yard TD pass, a 54-yard run that would lead to a score, and a 64-yard TD pass. However, the Bears’ remaining 28 offensive snaps only mustered a combined 72 yards. In total, the Bulldog defense would hold West Branch to only 236 total yards of offense, including just 64 yards on the ground. These marks are the fewest by the Bears in a complete game since 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Van Meter’s defensive tackle leaders vs. West Branch included:
Brett Berg – 3.5 Tackles (including 1 Solo TFL & 1 Asst Sack)
Spencer Lamb – 3.5 Tackles
Kasey O’Brien – 3.5 Tackles
Zach Madden – 3 Tackles
Cameron Smolik – 2.5 Tackles (including 1 Solo TFL)
Van Meter will play West Sioux in the Class 1A Semifinals next Saturday, November 10th at 1:00 PM in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls! We will post additional details about this game, ticket info and tv info soon.
Come on out and support your Bulldogs! GO DAWGS!!
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