The flawless record says Ankeny is undefeated.
The coaching staff of the top-ranked team in Class 4-A says otherwise.
“They’ve said all season long that we should have two losses from Dowling and Southeast Polk,” Ankeny receiver Marshall Clark said. “The coaches thought we got away with those. That fires us up.”
The motivational button pushing seemed to work. The Hawks have rarely been challenged since a pair of narrow victories during the season’s opening month.
Ankeny (12-0) needed no verbal prodding this week with No. 6 Southeast Polk (10-2) looming in this afternoon’s 4-A semifinals. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
The Hawks flipped on the video this week of their 28-21 victory against the Rams on Sept. 14 and watched the replay of a first half in which they were decisively outplayed for 24 minutes.
“They led us 21-7 and it probably should’ve been 28-7 at halftime,” Ankeny coach Jerry Pezzetti said. “We’re very concerned, and we know we’re playing a very good football team.”
Third-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier (12-0) plays No. 8 Cedar Falls (11-1) tonight in another rematch semifinal game. The Saints defeated the Tigers 24-7 on Oct. 12.
For two quarters, Southeast Polk dominated Ankeny in the first meeting of the season. The Rams racked up 240 yards of offense, scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and threatened to score another before the half ended.
“If we get down like that again,” Clark said, “our season will probably be over.”
Ankeny’s defense held Southeast Polk without a first down in the second half until midway through the fourth quarter, and quarterback Joel Lanning orchestrated touchdown drives of 80 and 99 yards before Ian Begg put the Hawks ahead with a 6-yard touchdown run with 2:07 remaining.
“We know we can’t do what we did last time,” Southeast Polk offensive lineman Bryce Fisher said. “We can’t lollygag around.”
Fisher said there was some good that came out of the defeat. He said the Rams boarded the bus afterward knowing they could play with the top teams in the state.
It was a galvanizing moment for Southeast Polk. The Rams have posted eight straight lopsided victories since the loss to the Hawks. The smallest margin of victory during that stretch was a 41-8 win against Waukee.
Southeast Polk punched its ticket to the semifinals with a 49-14 victory against No. 5 Dowling.
“At the start of the season we weren’t exactly sure how good we were,” defensive end Brandon Johnson said. “We went into (the first Ankeny) game and we weren’t as confident as we should’ve been. Everyone thought we could win … but I think now we know we can win.”
Clark said the Hawks learned a lesson that night, too.
“That we can be beat,” he said. “We’re not perfect. We can be beat. We got off the high horse. … After the Dowling win (the previous week), it was a big win and we thought we were all that. We thought we were invincible and that kind of got to us during that game.”