|Falcons come out on top of back-and-forth
by Gregory R. Norfleet · Sports · September 08, 2016
The brutally slow momentum shifted back and forth for four quarters Friday, yet the visiting West Burlington-Notre Dame Falcons held it in the fourth quarter and retook the lead for a 27-18 win over the Bears.
The Falcons scored first, West Branch came back in the second and took the lead by the half, extending that lead in the third before WBND pushed back in the final quarter with two touchdowns.
West Branch Head Coach Butch Pedersen said he will not use playing a Class 3A team as an excuse for the Class 1A Bears losing, but said he hopes the state will correct that by next season.
“They beat us and played better than we did,” he said.
Falcon Head Coach Nick Breuer said his team “persevered” to win at the Little Rose Bowl.
“We got in some bad positions and made some silly mistakes, but we tried to get to where we could battle back,” he said. “(This team) is physically and mentally tough.”
The game included key injuries on both sides. The Falcons lost senior running back Isaiah Trousil — one of the fastest sprinters in the state — to a pulled hamstring. The Bears lost sophomore quarterback Beau Cornwell — who scored one passing and two rushing touchdowns the week before — to a season-ending broken collarbone.
West Branch also suffered the loss of two-way player and sophomore Derek Sparks, who underwent hernia surgery earlier in the week. He is also out for the season, Pedersen said.
Cornwell, who also handles kicking duties, and Sparks were among two of the eight freshmen and sophomores pulled up to play on the shallow varsity bench — two big losses for the team, the coach said.
Breuer said the loss of Trousil hurt, but West Burlington-Notre Dame emphasizes “next man in.”
“This is a hell of a West Branch team,” he said. “We were dropping like flies, but we wanted it. It took a half to figure that out, but hats off to Butch.”
Both teams dazzled fans with big yardage, high-risk plays and surprise moves that ramped up the excitement on both sides of the Little Rose Bowl.
Among them was a short pass reception by Cooper Kabela, which he turned into a tackle-breaking, 84-yard touchdown.
“He’s an outstanding receiver, and he’s quick,” Pedersen said. “He’s not that fast, but he’s faster than people think. It was a great personal effort. If he chooses to do so, he has the ability to play football (in college).”
Breuer said he put WBND 6-3 defensive back Tanner Snodgrass on Kabela in an effort to “shut down No. 34,” which he thinks worked for the most part.
Sophomore Brett Schiele, playing on the punt return team, dazzled fans with a sprinting catch of a line-drive kick which he converted into a 52-yard return. Schiele also intercepted a two-point conversion pass in the fourth quarter.
Pedersen said he expects “great things” from Schiele, whom he calls “a very talented football player.”
“He’s green and he’s made some mistakes, but he’s going to grow a lot,” the head coach said.
West Branch also converted three fourth downs of 10, eight and one yard — during the same drive — to score late in the third quarter to take an 18-13 lead.
The coach said the decision to keep going rather than punt came from the “faith” that the coaches put into quarterback Brandon Rummelhart and the offense.
“We’re really pleased” by the team’s performance on the drive, Pedersen said. “They showed a lot of courage.”
The first fourth-down conversion, with the biggest risk, came at midfield and astonished Bears fans.
“That’s why we make the calls and people on the sidelines don’t,” Pedersen chuckled. “We had faith, and that gave our players the confidence they needed.”
Breuer said that drive showed West Branch would “not give up,” and made the win more satisfying.
“(The Bears) did a hell of a job all night,” he said. “They showed us we’ve got a lot to work on. We’ll enjoy the win tonight.”
WBND recovered one fumble and picked off two passes — one by junior defensive back Jamar Lewis and another by sophomore defensive back Tanner Snodgrass. They scored on the return drive from the fumble and the final interception — by Snodgrass — kept West Branch out of the end zone in the closing seconds of the game.
“It’s all about making plays,” he said, “Jamar and Tanner stepped in and helped us in the clutch. I’m extremely proud of them.”
Almost lost in the cloud of a battering-ram game was senior running back Luke Lenoch setting a new West Branch career yardage record. The Falcons found a way to slow Lenoch down, keeping him to only 78 rushing yards all night, but that was 20 more yards than he needed to break the school record of 4,420 yards.
Lenoch now stands with 4,440 career rushing yards with seven more regular-season games to go.
“That is a tremendous tribute to a tremendous young man,” Pedersen said. “He dedicated himself to the game and is getting the rewards out of that. Everybody is extremely proud of Luke.”
West Branch needs to find a new kicker with Cornwell on the sidelines, and Pedersen said the coaches need to find new players for special teams, too, because that aspect of the game needs to improve.
“We need to play with more passion, we need to coach better and the players need to play harder,” the coach said, reiterating comments from earlier in the season regarding a “rebuilding year.”
He said Bear history shows winning 81 percent of their games, but neither players nor fans can fall into “entitlement thinking” because the team must work hard if they want to keep winning.
“We’re so used to winning we expect it every year, but it is a growth process,” he said. “A lot of the mistakes are due to the youth on the field. I still think we can be very good, but the next three games will show … who is dedicated.”
That includes fans, he said.
Unlike Week One when West Branch rarely took to the air, Friday the Bears connected for 16 passes covering 272 yards, nearly three-fourths of West Branch’s 377 total yards that night. Pedersen said Rummelhart is a good runner, but throwing is his strength.
“He rejuvenated our offense,” the coach said.
And that comes from an offense that was already one of the team’s strengths on Friday, especially on rushing.
Pedersen also said defense “played fairly well.”
“The first two games are preparatory games,” he said. “And you can lose one game in the district and still make the playoffs.”
The Iowa High School Athletic Assn. cut down from three games to two the number of rounds it takes to qualify to play in the University of Northern Iowa Dome. That means half of the teams get in to the post-season than before, a system that had been in place for eight seasons.
Pedersen said he did not like that change, and hopes the IHSAA can come up with “a better solution” that allows more teams. He points out that every wrestling and basketball team get into the playoffs, but not football.
Pedersen thanked the Class of 1969 football team for joining the Bears for the pregame talk, honoring the current players with their presence. Several of the players, some of whom still live in West Branch, were honored during Throwback Game ceremonies prior to kickoff.
West Branch, which dropped to No. 10 on the Des Moines Register poll, will travel nearly two hours to Jesup on Friday to play a team that just dropped down from Class 2A. Jesup ranked No. 9 in the Gazette and Des Moines Register Class 1A polls, but has since dropped off.
Pedersen said the J-Hawks, now 1-1, are “very fast” and are “talented.”
To contend with their speed, the Bears will improve, the coach said.
“We will work hard and dedicate ourself” to improving at least 1 percent every day, he said.
The Falcons kicked off and West Branch freshman Tanner Lukavsky returned the ball to the Bear 24. West Branch got the ball to midfield in four plays that included an 11-yard keeper by quarterback Beau Cornwell before WBND senior defensive lineman Shavontae Nelson recovered a fumble.
The visitors handed the ball off to senior running back Isaiah Trousil on the first play, who ran down the left sideline 49 yards for a touchdown just two minutes into the game. Falcon kicker Slater Gifford put in the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Bear junior Luca Passeri returned the kick to the West Branch 25. The 13-yard catch by senior wide receiver Cooper Kabela helped get the ball to the Bear 38, but West Branch punted.
WBND started at their own 36 and three runs by Trousil picked up a net seven yards. The Falcons set up to punt but faked it with Trousil catching the snap, yet West Branch was ready and stopped him a yard short of first down.
Cornwell got things started with a 13-yard keeper, and senior running back Luke Lenoch followed with 12 more yards. A false start penalty, a fumble and a sack led to West Branch facing fourth-and-13 on the WBND 24. They tried going for it, but Cornwell was sacked again and the visitors started on their own 31.
The Falcons, boosted by a 15-yard catch by sophomore wide receiver Tanner Snodgrass, reached their 43 before punting.
Bear sophomore Brett Schiele had to run forward to catch the line-drive kick and then cut right, dodging tacklers as he headed upfield. He made one man miss and closed in on the last wave of Falcons before they finally pinned him and wrestled him down at the WBND 20-yard line, but not until after Schiele covered 52 yards.
West Branch edged the ball forward, but lost 10 yards on a false start penalty, which wide out Tanner Lukavsky negated with a 15-yard catch before the end of the first quarter. On the flip side of the field, West Branch went to junior wide out Jacob Graves on a third-and-goal from the six to finally put the home team on the scoreboard. However, a two-point conversion pass fell short, and the Bears trailed 7-6.
WBND went three-and-out and punted the ball 52 yards to roll to the West Branch 5.
Lenoch moved the ball nine yards on two plays, then senior quarterback Brandon Rummelhart picked up two more yards. Facing a third-and-10, Rummelhart found senior wide receiver Cooper Kabela with a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage. Kabela caught it and looked like he would get tackled right away, yet Kabela shook off his tacklers and sprinted down the left side of the field for an 84-yard touchdown, giving West Branch its first lead of the night.
Another two-point conversion attempt fell short, and the home team led 12-7.
WBND went three-and-out and Graves returned the punt to the West Branch 23.
Lenoch picked up 20 yards in two rushing attempts, then fullback Cale Donovan caught a pass for eight yards. At midfield, facing a fourth-and-one, Rummelhart ran a keeper good for three yards to keep the drive alive.
Kabela caught a pass for eight yards and Donovan managed to run for five more. The drive stalled there on a sack that cost the Bears 11 yards, and a delay-of-game penalty that cost them five more. West Branch punted the ball to the WBND 22.
The Falcons had time to make one play, a pass, but it was intercepted by Graves and time ran out.
In the second half, West Branch kicked off and Falcon senior Rel Green broke arm tackles until Kabela nabbed him at the Bear 27. The ball went backward on a fumble, but a 28-yard pass to Trousil put WBND just two yards from the end zone. Senior fullback Luke Shipley rushed for the score on the next play to allow the Falcons to retake the lead. Gifford’s extra-point kick was blocked by Lenoch.
Lukavsky returned the WBND kickoff, but a holding call brought the ball back to the Bear 15. Lenoch, senior wideout Garrett Tucker and junior wideout Ben Thompson shared carrying duties to pick up a first down. A false-start penalty lost five yards, but a penalty for pass interference against the Falcons provided a first down at the Bear 42.
A 10-yard reception by Thompson earned a first down, but a sack set the Bears back seven yards. Lenoch made up for that with an eight-yard run, but West Branch faced a fourth-and-10 from the WBND 47.
Rather than punting, Rummelhart found Kabela for a 12-yard gain to keep West Branch in possession. Lenoch and Donovan moved the ball to the WBND 15, then a pass to Lukavsky pulled in another 11 yards. Donovan got the ball to the 1. Facing a fourth-and-one and with Falcons stacking the box, Donovan cut right around the mass to run in untouched for the score with 7.7 seconds left to the third quarter.
The two-point conversion pass failed, yet the Bears had retaken the lead, 18-13.
WBND started the next drive on the Bears 26, assisted by a personal foul against West Branch that cost 15 yards. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Falcons connected with Snodgrass for a 22-yard pickup.
A delay-of-game penalty cost them five yards and the visitors only managed three yards in the next two plays. Facing fourth-and-goal from the six, WBND called time-out. When they returned, they found senior tight end Tate Snodgrass for a catch that gave the Falcons another one-point lead, 19-18.
The two-point conversion attempt was intercepted by West Branch’s Schiele.
West Branch went three-and-out on the next drive, punting to the WBND 45.
On the second play, a pass to Tanner Snodgrass picked up 28 yards, then a pass to Tate Snodgrass picked up 20 more. Tanner Snodgrass ran for five more yards to the West Branch 2, and sophomore quarterback Drake Day scored on a one-yard keeper two plays later.
The two-point conversion pass went to Tanner Snodgrass, and the Falcons led 27-18.
On the return drive, West Branch had trouble getting started, with a sack and fumble setting the back eight yards. But a pass to Kabela picked up 24 yards and a first down. Rummelhart found Graves for another 24-yard reception to get to the WBND 16.
WBND called time-out with five minutes left, and three plays later, junior defensive back Jamar Lewis picked off the pass, giving the ball back to the Falcons on their own 18.
The visitors punted three plays later to midfield.
A pass to Kabela picked up 10 yards, but a sack set West Branch back by eight. A 12-yard pass to Kabela and a four-yard keeper by Rummelhart put the Bears at fourth-and-one. The pass fell short and WBND got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining.
The Falcons tried to run down the clock and punted on fourth-and-21.
The Bears got the ball back with 23.3 seconds remaining, but the first play, a passing attempt, was picked off by Tanner Snodgrass. The Falcons then took a knee to end the game.
West Branch 18, WBND 27
West Burlington-Notre Dame 7 0 6 14 27
West Branch 0 12 6 0 18
First downs 6 19
Rush-pass-penalty 1-5-0 10-9-0
Rushing yards 54 105
Passing: Completions-Attempts 11-20 16-30
Passing yards 138 272
Passing: TD-Interceptions 1-1 2-2
Total plays 38 78
Offensive yards 192 377
Fumbles-lost 2-0 5-1
Penalties-yards 6-45 6-45
Defensive sacks-yards lost 6-44 0-0
Time of possession 14:48 33:12
3rd down efficiency 0 of 7 8 of 17
4th down efficiency 1 of 2 3 of 5
Punts-average yards 5-38.59 3-30.33
WBND: Isaiah Trousil 49-yard run; Slater Gifford kick; 10:00
WB: Brandon Rummelhart 6-yard pass to Jacob Graves; pass fails; 11:09
WB: Rummelhart 84-yard pass to Cooper Kabela; pass fails; 7:57
WB: Cale Donovan 1-yard run; pass fails; 7.7 seconds
WBND: Drake Day 6-yard pass to Tate Snodgrass; pass fails; 10:55
WBND: Day 1-yard run; Day pass to Tanner Snodgrass; 6:43
• • • • •
Passing — Beau Cornwell 1-13; Brandon Rummelhart 15-259, 2 TD; Luke Lenoch 1-0
Rushing — Beau Cornwell 5-10; Garrett Tucker 1-3; Brandon Rummelhart 9-(-22); Luke Lenoch 23-78; Cale Donovan 9-36, 1 TD
Receiving — Ben Thompson 2-15; Jacob Graves 2-48, 1 TD; Tanner Lukavsky 3-26; Luke Lenoch 1-8; Cooper Kabela 7-163, 1 TD; Cale Donovan 2-12
Tackles (solos-assists-sacks) — Ben Thompson 0-2-0; Billy Friis 2-1-0; Brett Schiele 2-2-0; Jacob Graves 4-0-0; Tanner Lukavsky 2-0-0; Luke Lenoch 0-2-0; Cooper Kabela 2-2-0; Colton Dietz 2-4-0; Drake Bloem 0-1-0; Jacob Barnhart 1-1-0; Cale Donovan 2-2-0; Cole Tisinger 0-1-0
Kick returns: Luca Passeri 1-11; Tanner Lukavsky 3-48
Punt returns-Yards: Brett Schiele 1-52; Jacob Graves 1-0
Punting: Beau Cornwell 1-42; Luke Lenoch 2-49
Kickoffs: Garrett Tucker 2-86; Brady Lukavsky 2-77