It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
At least that was the case for Drew Cook and his Regina teammates Saturday.
Cook rebounded after an interception on his first pass attempt to account for 396 yards of total offense and two scores as top-ranked Regina shrugged off a rocky start to roll past No. 8 North Fayette Valley 45-21 in the Class 1A semifinals at the UNI Dome.
Regina (13-0) rattled off 38 unanswered points to overcome an early 14-7 deficit and advanced to the 1A title game with its state-record tying 55th consecutive win.
“I knew I had to just move on, move on from adversity, and that’s what I did, that’s what the team did today,” Drew Cook said. “I thought we played a good team game today, everything was clicking.”
Cook responded from his interception on the Regals’ second offensive play to throw for 309 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 60 yards and a score as Regina advanced to its fourth straight title game, where it will face Fort Dodge St. Edmond at 11:06 a.m. Friday.
After starting the game 0-for-2, Cook completed 22-of-28 passes and also caught a 27-yard pass that set up a Regina touchdown.
“It’s obviously not the start you want when the first throw goes the other way,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “I was just real proud of the way that he battled, the way the whole team battled.”
North Fayette Valley (11-2) took a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game when the TigerHawks marched 40 yards in five plays following a blocked Regina field goal.
From that point on, the Regina offense was nearly unstoppable.
The Regals needed just 1:29 to tie the score on Cook’s 22-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper, the first of five consecutive first-half scoring drives for Regina that all lasted less than 2:33.
“They were moving the ball well, they scored early, and that’s happened a couple times now this season, and it’s all about responding and how you respond to that adversity,” Drew Cook said. “We did a great job of that today.”
North Fayette Valley took its final lead at 14-7 with 3:10 left in the first quarter after a 9-play, 72-yard drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Derrick Kuehner.
The rest was all Regina.
The Regals tied the score on Cook’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Amelon and then scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, all on runs by senior Riley Dixon to take a 35-14 lead into the break.
Dixon capped drives with touchdown runs of five, one and three yards.
“We didn’t quite play our best football today, but it was close,” Dixon said. “That is what we wanted to do today, that was our goal, that was our mission was to play our best football of the season. We knew we hadn’t done that yet, and I felt like today we were close.”
Regina took its first lead of the game on Dixon’s first touchdown run, a 5-yarder that capped a 3-play, 24-yard drive that was set up by a 31-yard punt return by Nick Phillips.
Following a North Fayette Valley punt, Regina put together its best drive of the game, a 10-play, 92-yard masterpiece that featured a pair of third-and-long conversions and ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Dixon.
Cook was 3-for-4 for 53 yards on the scoring drive that gave Regina a 28-14 lead and also had a 27-yard run.
After failing on its first third-down attempt, Regina converted six of its next seven all on passes by Cook, who was 5-of-6 on third-down throws.
The junior quarterback hit Bryan Amelon twice for first downs on the drive first on a third-and-nine and later on a third-and-10.
“Bryan Amelon made some big plays on third downs and that’s what we needed, those were big plays,” Cook said. “The game wouldn’t have gone the same way if we hadn’t completed those third downs.”
Following a three-and-out by North Fayette Valley on its ensuing possession, Regina added one more scoring drive before halftime.
Regina went 67 yards in seven plays in just 1:22 and took a 35-14 lead when Dixon scored from two yards out on the final play of the half.
The 6-foot-5 Cook set up the touchdown when he hauled in a 27-yard pass from backup quarterback Nathan Stenger at the two yard line.
“That was huge, it was huge momentum going into the half,” Dixon said. “North Fayette, obviously, they like to run the ball a lot, and we felt like if we got up they would have a hard time coming back.”
Regina added a field goal on its opening drive of the third quarter, a 79-yard march, and then capped its scoring with a 12-play, 64-yard drive that concluded with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Elliot Halsch.
North Fayette Valley entered the game averaging 365 yards per game on the ground but managed only 199 yards rushing on 49 carries, 99 of which came in the first quarter.
After racking up 102 yards rushing and scoring touchdowns on two of its first two drives, the TigerHawks were limited to 49 total yards on their next five possessions as Regina pulled away.
“They had 14 points and there was a moment when coach (Jason) Dumont said something like, ‘I think we’ve got it figured out a little bit now,’ ” Marv Cook said. “I kind of knew at that point that I could breathe a little cleaner and a little smoother.”
Dixon finished with 41 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Regina while Phillips had six receptions for 111 yards and Amelon caught six passes for 80 yards.
|North Fayette Valley||14||0||0||7||— 21|
NFV – Josh Mackey 3 yard run (Dalton Lape kick)
R – Drew Cook 22 run (Jacob Adam kick)
NFV – Derrick Kuehner 12 run (Lape kick)
R – Bryan Amelon 34 pass from Cook (Adam kick)
R – Riley Dixon 5 run (Adam kick)
R – Dixon 1 run (Adam kick)
R – Dixon 3 run (Adam kick)
R – Adam 23 field goal
R – Elliot Halsch 1 run (Adam kick)
NFV – Mackey 2 run (Lape kick)
|Total Nets Yards||449||208|
RUSHING – Regina: Drew Cook 6-60, Riley Dixon 16-41, Jake Brinkman 3-4, Eric Bracken 1-2, Elliot Halsch 1-1, Nathan Stenger 1-0. North Fayette Valley: Derrick Kuehner 18-84, Josh Mackey 21-77, Trevor Hurd 8-24, Brody Woods 2-14.
PASSING – Regina: Drew Cook 21-29-1 309, Nathan Stenger 2-2-0 32. North Fayette Valley: Trevor Hurd 1-3-0 9.
RECEIVING – Regina: Nick Phillips 6-111, Bryan Amelon 6-80, Riley Dixon 4-72, Payton Raso 2-41, Drew Cook 1-27, Jake Brinkman 3-5, Zach Fackler 1-5. North Fayette Valley: Phil Kleve 1-9.