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Western Dubuque’s Bryn Vantiger picks up big yardage during the Bobcats’ season-ending 55-20 loss at West Delaware, Oct. 23

It sure was fun while the ride lasted.

That’s what the feeling was like when the Western Dubuque football team, the reigning Class 3A state champion, was eliminated from playoff action when the Bobcats were beaten, 55-20, by West Delaware in their second-round game played at Brown Field in Manchester, Oct. 23.

The Hawks needed and got a dominating performance from their rush heavy offense as they were the first team to put points on the scoreboard. They took the opening kickoff and Jared Voss guided his team to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

After both teams traded punts, Voss and the Hawks were again on the march until Dominic Frost stripped the ball from Voss that was recovered by Dakota Lau. Just a few plays later, Garrett Baumhover found a wide-open Tommy DeSollar who won the race to the end zone with a 56-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was no good, so the Hawks continued to stay on top 7-6.

“That was huge for us at the time. Even though we missed the extra point, we showed them we weren’t afraid to trade punches with them,” said Justin Penner, head coach of the Bobcats, who knew they had a fight on their hands after falling to the Hawks 49-14 just three weeks ago.

The Hawks offense continued to prove they were too much for the Bobcats as Voss found the end zone two more times in the first half to give West Delaware a 21-6 lead.

Knowing that they couldn’t afford to fall any further behind, Penner trusted Baumhover to do his thing and get the Bobcats into the end zone before halftime. Baumhover hooked up with Lau to put them on the doorstep, but it was Jacob Butcher who followed his offensive line for a one-yard run that started the touchdown celebration. Eric Monahan’s kick was good allowing the Bobcats to go into halftime down 21-13.

“We were down at the half, but we left the field excited about the opportunity in front of us,” said Penner. “Even though we gave up an early score in the third quarter, we came back firing and we were right there where we needed to be.”

Down 28-13, the Bobcats needed to answer with a touchdown or they knew their playoff life was in jeopardy.

Again, Baumhover and the offense were up to the task as Butcher powered his way into the end zone on a four-yard touchdown run that kept the Hawks within reach. Now down 28-20, the Bobcats’ defense needed to do something not many teams have been able to do all season: keep Voss and the Hawks from scoring points in the second half.

Unfortunately, the Hawks crossed the goal line four more times on their way to earning a 55-20 victory.

“We got in a track meet situation with them and we couldn’t keep pace in the second half,” said Penner. “There is no doubt that they are a good football team and we respect their ability to go far in this year’s playoffs.”

Penner knows a bit about going far in the Class 3A playoffs as he guided the Bobcats into the state finals the past two years. Even though the Bobcats got down early their first instinct was to fight instead of retreat. It’s the Bobcat way. They went toe-to-toe with the Hawks and did the best they could to stay around as long as possible, but they stumbled late and the Hawks took advantage of it.

“I am so proud of the resiliency of our young men. Our kids obviously make our football program and just the toughness in them. Their willingness to step up to an enormous challenge just a few weeks after being beaten so badly and coming back and battling so much tougher is an example of their resiliency,” said Penner. “That’s why me and my entire coaching staff respect them so much, especially this senior class. Those guys are winners in every shape and form. Obviously, we’re incredibly grateful for them and the mark that they left on our football program.”

WD’s leaders were: passing — Baumhover 16-of-28 for 206 yards, one TD and two INTs; rushing — Butcher 15-for-79 and two TDs, Spencer Zinn 16-for-41, Baumhover 4-for-12; receiving — DeSollar 10-for-146 yards and one TD, Bryn Vantiger 2-for-24, Lau 1-for-23, Butcher 1-for-16, Zinn 1-for-1; kick-off returns – Andrew Oltmanns 3-for-35, Lau 5-for-32, Dominic Frost 1-for-15; extra points — Eric Monahan 2-for-3; punting — Baumhover 5-for-154.