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Beckman’s Max Mullis heads for the end zone during the Blazers’ 28-7 loss to Van Meter in Class 1A semifinal round action, at the UNI Dome, Nov. 12.

To call it a moral victory is usually a hollow phrase for the losing team. But that is just what the Beckman football team’s 28-7 loss to No. 1 ranked Van Meter at the UNI-Dome, Nov. 12, can be considered.

Those 28 points are the smallest number of points Van Meter has been held to since the Bulldogs stopped Winterset Sept 9. Since then they have been on a rampage, scoring anywhere from 31 to 77 points against their opponents on the way to a perfect 12-0 mark. And the team has been at the UNI-Dome the last five years, winning it all in 2017, 28-7 over Iowa City Regina, and coming up just short in the next two years.

In this one, the Blazers won the toss and deferred, holding the Bulldogs to a scoreless first series that ended with a punt to Luke Schieltz. His catch set the Blazers at the 11-yard line and they were held to a three-and-out, forcing Max Mullis to punt. But when his punt was caught at the 46, Bulldog Chris Schrek returned it those 46 yards to score their first touchdown. Katie Lindsay’s extra-point kick gave them a 7-0 lead they never lost.

Three minutes later, after a fumble by the Blazers and three plays, it was 14-0 on a run of 19 yards by quarterback Jack Petit and another Lindsay kick.

But the Blazers weren’t ready to fold. On the first play of their possession, Cayden Gassmann found Conner Grover open for a 53-yard toss, moving them to the 20. Three plays later, on a 4th-and-three, Gassmann hooked up with Mullis in the endzone and Logan Burchard made it 14-7. Game on.

The Bulldogs came back, riding the legs of leading rusher Dalten Van Pelt and capped their series two minutes into the second quarter with a Petit to Ganon Archer throw of 14 yards, a play they repeated seconds before the end of the quarter to lead 28-7 at halftime.

In the second half, the Blazer defense held the Bulldogs scoreless, a feat not matched for most of the season. And they had their own chances to score, the best a 1st-and-goal from the six that failed to punch the ball inside the endzone with about three minutes left in the third quarter. They ran the ball better in that half and caught up in the stats department but couldn’t get the ones that mattered most, scores.

Coach Mark Atwater commented, “We knew what Van Meter would bring. We knew we had to play as close to perfect a game as we could to beat a team like that. We just weren’t able to do that. When you give up a special teams’ touchdown and then add not getting the defense off the field, it’s going to be tough to win. That’s one of the best teams in Iowa regardless of class and our kids squared up with them and played them tough. Unfortunately, at the end, we just came up short.

“I’m extremely proud of what this group accomplished this year. From week one to now, they have grown and become such a better team. You could see their confidence grow week by week.

“This group of seniors is just special. They committed themselves to our program and our process. I’m just so proud of this group and what they were able to accomplish. It has been an absolute pleasure to coach them.”

Individual stats include: passing — Gassmann 8-of-17 for 107 yards, one TD; receivers — Grover 1-for-53, Schieltz 2-for-22, Mullis 2-for-17, Padraig Gallagher 2-for-15; rushing — Gassmann 17-for-85, Owen Huehnergarth 20-for-70, Schieltz 1-for-1; punting—Mullis 3-for-99, returns — Schieltz 3-for-9; kickoff returns — Eli Kluesner 1-for-24, Mullis 1-for-10; tackles — Jason Koopman 6.5 (five solo, two for loss), Oakley Harbaugh 6.5 (five), Huehnergarth five (four, one), Grover 4.5 (four), Elliot Naughton four (three), Luke Boge four (two), Gassmann 3.5 (two), Ben Lueck 3.5 (one), Ty Fangman 2.5, Burchard and Lane Kramer two (one), Arturo Venegas 1.5 (one), Kluesner and Schieltz one (one), Ryan Funke, Eric Heinrichs and Nick Wulfekuhle 0.5.

Team stats: yards gained — 260, VM — 324; number of plays –56, VM 55; passing 8-of-17 for 104, VM — 5-of-10 for 53; penalties — 1-for-5, VM — 2-for-15; time of possession 22:08, VM — 25:52; first downs — 12, VM-19.