The rematch was inevitable.
Ever since Regina beat West Branch 15-13 in the first week of district play back on Sept. 7 in West Branch, the rematch has loomed large.
West Branch (8-2) and No. 1 Regina (10-0) tangle today at Regina in the second round of the playoffs.
“We knew how talented they were, how much talent they had,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “It was a testament to our guys, our ability to come back, regroup and make enough plays in the second half to get the victory.”
West Branch had gotten ahead 7-0 at the half, limiting the Regals to fewer than 50 yards of offense in the first 24 minutes. Down 15-7 in the final minutes, the Bears drove down for a touchdown, but failed the game-tying 2-point conversion.
“That game showed us some things we needed to work on,” West Branch coach Butch Pedersen said. “The character we had after a game like that, we learned a lot as a football team after that loss.”
West Branch (8-2) lost the next week at Wilton 35-28, but rolled through the next six games, averaging 50.0 points per game.
The Bears offense starts with senior running back Cade Jones, who has 1,815 yards on 185 attempts. Senior Bo Bower added 791 yards on 79 carries.
“They know what their identity is,” Cook said. “We have to find a way to stop them. And also understand that they can throw it effectively. We have to come out and play a solid game.”
Senior Cole Cook has thrown for 504 yards for the Bears. He only has two pass attempts over the past two games, but Pedersen said that was due to the score and muddy field.
“We do have a passing attack,” Pedersen said. “We may throw it more this game than we ever have. We have some passing formations we haven’t shown. We have faith in our receivers and Cole Cook.”
Regina will be airing it out for certain. Senior Mark Ward has broken out since that Week 3 contest. He has thrown for 1,530 yards with 23 touchdowns to five interceptions for Regina.
“I think he’s gotten more comfortable with the offense and his decision-making,” Cook said of Ward. “We have been able to dial up more plays and cater to his skill set.”
The Regals can pair him with junior running back Riley Dixon (149-1,223) for a tough one-two punch.
“They will throw the ball,” Pedersen said. “We have some things we’ve tried to do to give us advantages.”
Like West Branch, Regina has rolled through the back half of its schedule, putting the continuous clock on everyone.
Regina, the two-time defending Class 2A champion, has a 38-game game winning streak.
“Like any playoff game, this one will come down to field position, the turnover battle,” Pedersen said. “Good football teams aren’t worried about a winning streak. It’s about getting better.”