Bears deny Bulldogs trip to the UNI-Dome

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Senior Austin Schlee proudly hoists MFL MarMac’s state participant trophy after the team’s 27-24 quarterfinal loss at West Branch on Nov. 4. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Bulldog Brock Hackett wraps up a West Branch runner with help from teammate Elias Hatt (12).

Hunter Meyer (53) and the offensive line helped pave the way for a combined 177 yards for MFL MarMac runners. That total was the most allowed by the Bears defense this season.

Wyatt Powell picked up 111 of MFL MarMac's rushing yards on 13 carries.

A team effort from Austin Schlee (left) and Kade McElwaine brings down a Bears runner in the Nov. 4 quarterfinal game.

The poor weather conditions made throwing difficult for Bulldog quarterback Zach Driscoll.

Carver Blietz-Bentien searches for running room against West Branch.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

Two fourth quarter touchdowns lifted West Branch over MFL MarMac 27-24 in the Nov. 4 Class 1A quarterfinal match-up. 

 

The season ending loss—just the Bulldogs’ second of 2022—denied the team a trip to the semifinals at the UNI-Dome.

 

“It hurts even more when it’s so close. I feel bad for our kids,” said Bulldog head coach Dan Anderson. “But you have to give West Branch credit. They found a few seams in the defense in the second half. ”

 

After the Bears converted on their opening drive, the Bulldogs scored 16 unanswered points—including touchdowns of 1 and 8 yards by Carver Blietz-Bentien and Wyatt Powell—to take a 16-6 lead into halftime. Blietz-Bentien also had one of the defensive highlights of the game in that span, blocking a West Branch punt for a safety.

 

West Branch cut the lead to 16-13 on a 50-yard touchdown to start the third quarter, but MFL MarMac quickly responded on an 81-yard score from Zach Driscoll to Karter Decker. A two-point conversion put the Bulldogs up 24-13.

 

The Bears took over in the fourth quarter, however, reaching the end zone twice and forcing a safety on a Bulldog punt. 

 

The driving rain that fell throughout the game impacted the special teams.

 

“It’s hard to field that ball. It’s like a shot put when it comes back to you, when it’s wet like that,” Anderson said. He told punter Austin Schlee, if the ball didn’t come back to him cleanly, to take a safety and let the Bulldog defense work. “Our defense just couldn’t hold up there,” Anderson added. 

 

Slippery conditions also contributed to turnovers in each of MFL MarMac’s final two possessions.

 

“Both teams, your game plan is definitely limited when the weather is like this, when it’s raining this hard,” Anderson said. “We’ve proven we can throw the ball well, but a night like tonight, it’s hard to throw the ball. It was slipping out of hands.”

 

The Bulldog rushing attack was successful, though, with their 177 combined yards the most given up by the Bear defense this season. Powell picked up 111 yards on 13 carries and Blietz-Bentien added 55 on 15 touches.

 

“We just weren’t able to throw the ball, and they got a few tackles for loss that put us behind the sticks. It’s hard to get a first down against a run defense like that when it’s third and 10 and you can’t really throw the ball well,” said Anderson.

 

The coach also praised West Branch’s offensive line, which paved the way for the team’s second half comeback.

 

“The second half, they were able to find a little momentum and the quarterback was able to slip through there a few different times,” Anderson said. “They’re the best team we’ve seen all season long. We fought till the end.”

 

Anderson was pleased with the team’s fight all season long. After a tough start in non-district play, the Bulldogs went undefeated in the district—winning the Class 1A - District 4 title.

 

“We want to play tough competition to get us ready for district football,” he said. “Our kids really came together as a unit after those first few games, really played well down the whole stretch.”

 

The seniors were a big part of that. Anderson referenced players like Cole Allert, who came in as a 115-pound freshman and, over four years, became the strongest on the team.

 

“That shows the dedication these kids have to get better. That’s the indicator of the health of our program—the kids wanting to get better and working hard,” Anderson said. “We’re going to miss these guys. But somebody else will step up for us. We’ll expect to be back here next year, somewhere, in the quarterfinals.”

 

“We have to figure out how to get over that hump,” he added. “You just keep chopping away at it. It’s motivation for our kids. They’ll work extremely hard in the offseason. Coaches will do the same thing. They want to make the community proud. Nobody wants to be the team that falls off and doesn’t make the playoffs. There’s a standard set and we want to stick to it, and I believe we will.”

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