The St. Mary’s Springs vaunted rushing attack spent the second and third rounds of the playoffs spinning its wheels. Not Saturday.
Iowa-Grant had no answer for the speed of the Ledgers’ running backs or the strength of their linemen in a 54-14 rout in a WIAA Division 6 state semifinal at Middleton High School’s Otto Breitenbach Stadium.
“We did a lot better than I thought we would,” Springs lineman Patrick Soldner said. “We had another rough week of practice. But we came out and proved ourselves.”
Springs (12-0) will play Eau Claire Regis (12-0) in the Division 6 state championship game Thursday at 1 p.m. at Camp Randall Stadium.
In the first half of Saturday’s contest, Springs had seven first-half possessions that resulted in seven touchdowns and 310 yards on just 25 plays.
And the difference in quality was on full display on the first drive of the game. It took just five plays before Ike Floyd bowled over a defender at the goal line for the first of his four touchdowns.
“It felt good to get some long runs and get some yards, score some touchdowns,” Floyd said. “[The offensive line was] blocking better today and everything was working.”
The key to this week’s domination started up front.
“It’s our O-Line,” Soldner said. “They did a lot better job than last week or the week before that, so our coaches are getting us better. (The key was) basic technique like getting our head on the right side and footwork. We’re strong enough, we’re fast enough to get there, we just need the technique.”
The only time Iowa-Grant appeared to have Springs’ running game measured came in the second quarter, when the Panthers forced Springs into a third-and-11. But on one of just three third downs in the first half, Springs called for a delayed draw to Floyd, who ran right past the clueless Iowa-Grant defense and had nothing but turf in front of him.
Darin Ward then put the running clock in effect.
With less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half, Ward went uncovered out of the backfield and quarterback Evan Henderson’s bullet found him for a 26-yard score. Just 28 seconds later, Soldner recovered a fumble which then set up a Ward walk-in touchdown to finish the first-half carnage.
While Springs was running wild, Iowa-Grant, a power running team, ran 27 times for just 18 yards in the first 24 minutes of the game.
“They got off to a good start,” Springs coach Bob Hyland said. “They got a couple first downs. Again, they were fresh. When you’re playing every down on the field you get awful tired, and consequently we wore them down really fast. And once we got those touchdowns on them that made a difference.”
Against a mix of defensive back-ups and starters, Iowa-Grant halfback Tucker Sarbacker ran for 100 yards on eight carries in the third quarter and scored two touchdowns to temporarily stop the running clock.
But it was way too little and way too late.
SPRINGS 54, IOWA-GRANT 14
SMS — Ike Floyd, 2 run (Mitch Herron kick), 10:22.
SMS — Darin Ward, 39 run (kick failed), 4:28.
SMS — Floyd, 1 run (Herron kick), 1:19.
SMS– Floyd, 53 run (Herron kick), 7:47.
SMS — Floyd, 3 run (Herron kick), 4:22.
SMS — Ward, 26 pass from Evan Henderson, 1:42.
SMS — Ward, 6 run (Herron kick).
IG — Tucker Sarbacker, 9 run (pass failed), 8:07.
IG — Sarbacker, 11 run (Derek Peat pass to Dakota Barnes), 1:50.
SMS — Tyler Wiza, 5 run (kick failed), 3:36.
Rushing — Tucker Sarbacker 22-152, Cody Rider 4-21.
Passing — Derek Peat 3-8-1-18.
Receiving — Kyle Trevarrow 2-21.
Rushing — Ike Floyd 10-159, Darin Ward 8-92, Mark Austin 8-44.
Passing — Evan Henderson 4-5-0-58.
Receiving — Eric Feldner 2-24, Ward 1-26, David Joslyn 1-8.