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Bulldogs battle to the end in state title loss to Grundy Center

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Brandon Christofferson (3) and Parker Kuehl (9) knock down a pass intended for a Grundy Center receiver in the Class 1A state championship game. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Carter Stoddard was a player who stepped up both offensively and defensively as injuries mounted in MFL MarMac’s loss to Grundy Center.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

Last Thursday’s Class 1A state football championship game—a 42-0 loss to top-ranked and undefeated Grundy Center—wasn’t the result MFL MarMac was hoping for, but head coach Dan Anderson couldn’t be more proud of his players.

 

The Bulldogs had already made program history by simply playing in the UNI-Dome for the previous week’s semifinal game against Underwood. Playing for the state title was another first.

 

“I’m proud of the kids. They’re warriors. They fought,” Anderson said. “Grundy Center, what an outstanding football team. They are as advertised. They are the top of the class, by far. They looked to me, at the beginning of the season, like they could be a team that could be beat, but the last four or five weeks, they are definitely the number one team.”

 

After forcing the Spartans to punt on their opening drive, it looked as if the physical Bulldog defense might be able to limit an offense that put up 31 points or more in nine of the team’s 12 wins. An untimely fumble on MFL MarMac’s first drive, however, set Grundy Center up for its first scoring opportunity. The Spartans never looked back, putting up an efficient 334 yards of offense, including 242 through the air.

 

One of the Bulldogs’ senior corners, Bryce Radloff, left the game early with an injury. MFL MarMac was already down senior linebacker Wyatt Powell from the week before, and other banged up players rotated in and out as the championship game progressed.

 

“You can only take so many guys getting banged up and injured, and all of a sudden your playbook gets cut very thin,” Anderson said. “We had a lot of guys playing out of position, but even with our best out there, I don’t think we’re beating Grundy.”

 

Carver Blietz-Bentien and Carter Stoddard led the Bulldog defense with 5.5 total tackles apiece. Elias Hatt and Bryce Diehl each tallied 5, Brandon Christofferson 4 and Quinn McGeough and Tristen Koehn 3.5. Parker Kuehl and Bryce Jones both came in at 2.

 

Powell, who rallied his team from the sideline, credited teammates for stepping up.

 

“I wish I could have been out there,” he said. “Our guys fought hard, though. I’m proud of my guys and what they did today. Guys like Carter Stoddard, Parker Kuehl, they stepped up today and did their part the most they could. After not being in there all year, they did a great job.”

 

The MFL MarMac offense, down Powell—then later Radloff—at running back, was shut out for the first time this season. Radloff put up 35 rushing yards on four carries before exiting, while fullback McGeough gained 34 yards on 14 attempts. Quarterback Blietz-Bentien ended the game as the leading rusher, grinding out 46 yards on 12 carries. He and Elias Hatt also combined for 2-10 passing for 18 yards.

 

Despite the point disparity, Koehn stressed that the Bulldogs never backed down.

 

“We never stopped coming at ‘em. We had a couple of guys hurt and everyone gave everything they possibly could and left it all out on the field,” he said. 

 

Powell looked not at the ending, but how far the team has come.

 

“We’ve never been this far. It’s obviously not the outcome that we wanted, but we made a good run,” he said. 

 

The effort solidified MFL MarMac’s place as the number two team in Class 1A, added Anderson.

 

“This season, we started ranked number two, and that’s where we ended up. We beat a really good Underwood team last week and proved we deserve to be in the state championship,” he said. “I hope people remember these guys played to the very end, they played for 13 weeks. There are 330 football teams in the state of Iowa and 316 got knocked out to this point. We got down to the last two in our class. I hope people remember that and that these guys battled.”

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