Western Dubuque’s offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage to help the Bobcats run for 316 yards while scoring six touchdowns as they bulldozed their way to the Class 3A quarterfinals with a 42-10 pounding of Washington at Buchman Field in Epworth Nov. 1.
Ben Bryant rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns and Calvin Harris got loose for 130 yards and four touchdowns to help the second-ranked Bobcats take a step closer to their goal of playing for a state championship.
“I think good teams find a variety of ways to win football games and this was a different way than we had won any other game this year,” said Justin Penner, head coach of the Bobcats. “Rushing for over 300 yards, it was the first time all year that we did that and we did it when throwing the ball was quite difficult.”
Buchman Field was a bit sloppy and muddy on this cold rainy night in November. The fact that the Bobcats were able to run the ball so easily when everybody knew that they were going to lean heavily on the ground game says a lot about the guys they have battling in the trenches. However, the offense had to wait its turn to get going as the defense was tested first when Washington won the coin toss and decided to get the ball.
“It was crazy. Our defense gets the stop and then our offense marches down and scores right out of the gate,” said Penner. “To have that kind of momentum that early in the game was huge for us.”
Scoring early in playoff games in front of your home crowd is a big advantage and the Bobcats used just four plays to find the end zone as they grabbed a 7-0 lead on a 12-yard touchdown run by Calvin Harris and Gabe Ulrichs’ kick for the extra point.
The Bobcats made it 14-0 early in the second quarter when Bryant scored the first of his two touchdowns on a six-yard run.
Washington had all kinds of trouble moving the football against the Bobcats’ stingy defense, but they were finally able to put points on the board when Zac Stout’s field goal attempt from 27 yards out was good. That made the score 14-3 with over two minutes left in the half. It was plenty of time for the Bobcats to put points on the board, especially after Will Burds darted his way for a 60-yard kickoff return that gave them first down at the Deacons’ 42-yard line.
After two rushes by Bryant, Harris carried the ball the final 14 yards for the touchdown and a 21-3 halftime lead.
One of the keys to the Bobcats’ ability to control the game offensively was because the offensive line decided to have a competition to see who could have the most pancake blocks during the game.
“What you saw going on was a random kid making a pancake block and the other guys getting jealous about it so they wanted to get in on the action,” said Penner with a smile. “Then everything kind of escalated from there and the results were a win, 300 yards on the ground, a couple of different 100-yard rushers and just a dominant performance by our offensive line.”
“There’s a right way to play the game and we believe that playing with passion and enthusiasm is the right way for us to play and we describe that as Bobcat football,” added Penner. “Those guys competing for pancake blocks is part of that whole deal and part of playing the game the right way.”
The Bobcats continued to have success running the ball in the second half. After receiving the kickoff, they drove down the field behind the strength of the offensive line until Bryant crashed into the end zone on a five-yard carry to build the lead to 28-3.
After another defensive stop, Harris made it 35-3 on a four-yard touchdown run and on the first play of the fourth quarter Harris raced 49 yards for his longest touchdown run of the season and a 42-3 lead.
“He ran angry,” said Penner about his senior quarterback who rushed for over 100 yards for the first time this season. “We need to keep giving Cal a hard time because he’s running angry right now and that seems to be a good thing for us.”
Even though the offense had a huge night, Penner also pointed out that the defense did its job very well against a proven offensive power.
“It took a great defensive effort from our guys. They were leading 3A in all the scoring categories, so what our defense did against that kind of talent was special,” said Penner. “We forced three and outs and they just weren’t used to that. Our defense just played lights out.”
When the horn sounded, Penner celebrated the victory with his team with the “Penner Pile” as he does after every win, but he quickly turned his attention to the Bobcats’ next opponent.
“North Scott’s coming to town and I know what they have on their mind. So we’re going to have to play a really good football game on Friday night. They are going to make us earn it,” said Penner. “But it truly would be special if we could close out the year on the ‘Buck’ and close out our seniors’ career on the ‘Buck’ with one more win. So we sure could use the help of the Bobcat Nation like they have helped all season long. It’s going to be a cold night.”
WD’s leaders were: passing — Harris 6-of-12 for 90 yards; rushing — Bryant 15-for-134 yards and 2 TDs, Harris 11-for-130 and 4 TDs and Jackson Burger 7-for-50; receiving — Burds 3-for-53 yards, Bryant 2-for-29, Tommy DeSollar 1-for-9; tackles — Burds 7, Carter Kluesner 6.5, Cameron Kluesner and Dustin Wille 4.5, Will Conlan and Sawyer Nauman four, Collin Hogan 3.5, Logan Brosius three, Bryant and Kyle Schirmer 1.5, Ethan Blair, Burger, DeSollar, Harris, Dakota Lau, Garrett Pitz, Bryce Ploessl and Ulrichs one , Ryan Cook, Peyton Deppe, Matt Felton, Caden Hickie, Cole Phillips and Jonathan Savolt 0.5 ; extra points — Ulrichs 6-of-6; punts — Ulrichs 2-for-67; punt returns — Burds 3-for-43 yards; kickoff returns — Burds 1-for-60 yards and Ryker Staudemaier 1-for-13.