As much as things change in life, some things remain the same. When Regina reaches the UNI-Dome, its defense takes charge.
Regina won its third consecutive state football championship and fourth overall, 35-14 over Council Bluffs St. Albert Friday at the UNI-Dome behind a defense that completely shut down the Falcons in the second half.
“There’s no better way to end it,” Regina senior Mike Donovan said.
This coaching staff has been known for the in-game adjustments made this season, and the championship was no exception. After allowing 124 yards in the first half, 87 of which came on the ground, the Regals stiffened.
“I think our adjustments at halftime, especially defensively, really got the job done,” senior Mark Ward said.
“We switched up on how we were going to get the edge set,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “They were doing a good job of getting to the edge and then picking up extra yards on the outside. We moved Jake Brinkman in and kind of put him over center to get an odd front.”
The Regals gave up two first downs and only 37 total yards in the second half, completely stifling the Falcons’ running game. The Regals came up with three second-half interceptions after forcing the Falcons out of their preferred method of travel.
“They shut down our run,” St. Albert tailback Cole Herr said. “Our offense didn’t have any rhythm in the second half, and that was key. Also in the second half the biggest thing for them they knew we were going to pass because we were down. They have a great secondary, and they were able to pick us off a couple times.”
With the victory, Regina (14-0) extended its winning streak to 42 games over the three seasons. St. Albert finished 12-2. Its other loss came to a 3A team.
The Regals’ offense wasn’t bad either. Ward threw for a 1A title game record 297 yards. Donovan tied a title game record with seven catches and broke the record for receiving yards with 125. That passing game was a key because St. Albert did a pretty good job shutting down Regina’s rushing attack.
The game was tied at 14 at halftime after St. Albert missed a 30-yard field goal as time expired.
“I felt like we were in a great football game,” Cook said.
Regina’s defense stopped the Falcons on the opening drive of the third quarter and forced a punt.
“I thought the opening drive of the second half was huge,” Cook said. “I thought St. Albert did some great things offensively against our defense early, and then we made some adjustments and just stopped them.”
Regina’s offense put together a 67-yard drive highlighted by a 46-yard pass from Ward to Alex Balke. It came on a third-and-18 on the Regals’ 35. Balke leaped high, caught the ball with two defenders on him, landed hard on his back, hung on to the ball and stayed in bounds along the sideline.
“Last week we converted a fourth-and-19 to Alex,” Ward said. “He made a heck of a play last week, and he comes back again this week with another heck of a play. He makes plays; he wants to win.”
“Alex is a big, athletic guy and causes mismatches,” Cook said. “If you can ever get him one on one, that’s kind of what we were looking to get.”
That put the ball at the Falcons’ 19. Regina scored on a screen pass to Riley Dixon on the next play to take a 21-14 lead.
“That was a huge momentum boost,” Cook said of the stop and the scoring drive.
“All year we’ve been coming out fast in the second half,” Donovan said. “Once we got the momentum, we just kept it and after that we just kept rolling. We felt great coming out of halftime, too.”
The defense again forced a punt, and the Regals moved the ball down the field with the big play coming on a Ward to Donovan pass. Donovan caught the ball in the left flat and with the help of some nice downfield blocking ran 64 yards to the Falcons’ 14.
“We fake the play-action, and it’s pretty much a screen pass,” Donovan said. “Every time we run a zone play, I’m always out there bubbling and they called it, and Ward read it and we had blockers down there. It worked out perfectly. The o-line must have occupied the guys inside because it took forever for them to get to me.”
Balke and Matt Streb both delivered blocks on the play, and it took speedy cornerback Tucker Culjat to track down Donovan and save the touchdown.
Regina’s drive stalled after it reached the 5 with two false start penalties. But Nick Dolezal made sure the Regals came away with three points, booting a 32-yard field goal for a 24-14 lead.
Fritz Wagner intercepted a pass on St. Albert’s first play after the kickoff to give the Regals the ball at the Falcon 28. Again the Regals couldn’t push it into the end zone because of untimely penalties, but Dolezal’s 34-yard field goal gave the Regals a 27-14 lead with 5:47 left. Regina managed to eat six minutes of time off the clock while getting the three points.
A Donovan interception on the next possession led to a Regina touchdown five plays later. Donovan took a pitch and ran 5 yards for the score. Regina converted a two-point pass from Ward to Mike Sehl to make the score 35-14 with 2:23 left in the game.
Defensive end Elliott Halsch led Regina with 11 solo tackles and two tackles for loss.
R–Mike Donovan 1 run (Nick Dolezal kick).
SA–Cole Herr 3 run (Jon Meyerring kick).
SA–Herr 3 run (Meyerring kick).
R–Matt Streb 40 pass from Mark Ward (Dolezal kick).
R–Riley Dixon 19 pass from Ward (Dolezal kick).
R–Dolezal 32 field goal.
R–Dolezal 34 field goal.
R–Donovan 5 run (Mike Sehl pass from Ward)
|Total Net Yards||161||383|
RUSHING – St. Albert: Tucker Culjat 15-75, Cole Herr 14-43, Isaac Finn 2-2, Jacob Bendgen 2-1. Regina: Riley Dixon 16-56, Mike Donovan 9-22, Mark Ward 2-(-4).
PASSING – St. Albert: Tucker Culjat 3-6-3-40. Regina: Mark Ward 17-25-1-297.
RECEIVING – St. Albert: Eric Johnson 1-34, Isaac Finn 1-3, Cole McBride 1-3. Regina: Mike Donovan 7-125, Alex Balke 5-71, Riley Dixon 2-53, Matt Streb 2-46, Mike Sehl 1-2.