Garrett Baumhover threw three touchdown passes to Tommy DeSollar and Spencer Zinn ran for 107 yards, but it wasn’t enough for the Western Dubuque football team to upset Decorah. The Vikings beat the Bobcats 35-20 to win the Class 3A, District 3 title at Decorah Oct. 9.

Slow starts have all played a role in the Bobcats’ losses this season and it happened again as Decorah jumped to a 14-0 lead. It wasn’t until the second quarter that the Bobcats’ offense was able to sustain a drive and finish it off with a touchdown. No surprise that it was Tommy DeSollar who got into the end zone on a three-yard pass play from Baumhover. Eric Monahan’s point after was good to make at a 14-7 game at halftime.

“I thought our defensive staff made some really nice adjustments to the things they were doing because that temporarily stunned for a little bit and kept us in the game,” said Justin Penner, head coach of the Bobcats. “We found some success with tempo there for a while in the second quarter. I felt like we were finally on the attack and we just missed on a couple of things that might have given us a chance to tie the game before halftime (at the end of the half). That would have been big, but regardless I really liked the way we finished the first half on both sides of the ball.”

Decorah, who received the second-half kickoff, got things going again as they pushed the ball into the end zone to extend their lead back to 14 points at 21-7.

Playing from behind isn’t what the Bobcats like to do, but with their never quit attitude they kept coming at the Vikings. Using a balanced attack with Zinn running the ball and Baumhover picking apart the Vikings’ secondary mixing up throws to his two favorite targets, DeSollar and Dakota Lau, the Bobcats ended up in the end zone again. This time it was a 25-yard touchdown pass from Baumhover to DeSollar. The try for extra point was no good to make the score 21-13, but it was still a one-possession game.

Needing a stop, the Bobcats finally got one early in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Baumhover was off the mark and Joseph Bockman picked off the pass and went 36 yards for a touchdown that gave the Vikings some breathing room at 28-13.

“That pick-six hurt us an awful lot. Even with that, we still closed the gap again but we just couldn’t get that stop in enough time to help us turn the game,” said Penner.

DeSollar found the end zone one last time on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Baumhover to get back within eight points again, 28-20, with just over seven minutes left to play.

“I liked what Tommy DeSollar was doing for us all night in terms of giving us a threat both short and long and he really made some things happen after the catch,” said Penner about his senior receiver who had eight receptions for 130 yards and three touchdowns. “That helped us close the gap, but he was a problem for their defense all night long.”

Knowing that the game was still on the line, the Vikings leaned on their running game as they slowly marched down the field taking time off the clock and scored a touchdown to put the game away, 35-20.

“Our kids are giving unbelievable effort. They are definitely draining their gas tank every Friday night and we as a coaching staff are really appreciative of the fact that our kids are willing to give everything they have,” said Penner. “It’s been an awful lot of fun to have the opportunity to play football this year when we didn’t know if we were going to have that opportunity or not. Not only that, but we’re excited about Friday night. We’re excited that we have this format and that we get to host another football game here on the Buch and that’s pretty fun stuff for us.”

The format Penner referred to is this year’s playoff format where every team gets a chance to play in the postseason. In Class 3A there are 53 teams so 11 teams get byes as the other 42 teams battle to get into the field of 32.

The Bobcats (4-3 overall and 3-2 in district play), will host Waverly-Shell Rock (4-3 overall and 3-2 in district play) Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. for a rematch of their week four battle, won by Western Dubuque 28-9.

“Friday night was not what we wanted it to be, but because of this year’s unique format for the playoffs we now have the opportunity to have a short memory because this is now the game that matters,” said Penner. “Waverly-Shell Rock is obviously a very improved football team and they are playing with a lot of confidence right now beating Decorah late at their place and beating Charles City by 42. They are a team getting an awful lot better at the right time of the year.”

WD’s leaders were: passing — Baumhover 17-of-36 for 205 yards, three TDs and one INT; rushing — Zinn 28-for-107, Baumhover 5-for-11; receiving — DeSollar 8-for-130 yards and three TDs, Lau 4-for-46, Dominic Frost 2-for-12, Zinn 2-for-8, Andrew Oltmanns 1-for-9; kick-off returns — Lau 3-for-54, Oltsmann 2-for-37; punt returns — DeSollar 2-for-10; extra points — Monahan 2-for-3; punting — Baumhover 3-for-95; fumble recoveries — Chase Boulting and Evan Surface one each; tackles — Lau 12, Owen Hatcher 8.5, Devin Neuhaus 6.5, Evan Surface 4.5, DeSollar and Dakota Hoffman 3 each, Oltmanns 2.5, Frost 2, Max Klein, Cole Phillips, Tyler Weidenbacher and Zinn .5 each.