|Nowhere to fly: Falcons fall to Bears
by Gregory R. Norfleet · Sports · September 07, 2017
Even when West Branch did things wrong on Friday, it turned out right.
The 30-6 win on the road at West Burlington included a lot the Bears did right, starting with a defense that held the Falcons scoreless until first team stepped off the field, then with special teams giving themselves good field position and the host team table scraps.
Nine of those Bears’ points came off of field goals.
Offense did well, too, churning out nearly three times the yards as the home team.
There were problems, though.
When drives got close to the end zone but stalled, the Bears settled for a field goal. By night’s end, junior Beau Cornwell sank three of them in a row — at 29, 24 and 39 yards — and set a new school record.
On a drive that stalled at the Bears’ 40, a bad snap went wild, forcing Cornwell to pick the ball up, scramble and chuck the ball downfield. Senior Jacob “Cheese” Graves grabbed it for a 19-yard gain.
And half of Cornwell’s six punts rolled to or were stopped by Bears players less than 10 yards from the end zone the Falcons were trying to defend.
On the flip side, West Burlington only managed 40 total net yards against the Bears’ defense until West Branch took most of its first team off the field, which allowed the home team to score once.
It’s not what one expects when a Class 1A team shows up to play one from Class 3A.
“What we wanted to do with the first two games of the season, we accomplished,” Head Coach Butch Pedersen told the team in the post-game huddle. “We beat a 2A, we beat a 3A. But were you satisfied with the way we played tonight?”
“No,” the team responded in unison.
“I was really pleased with the intensity and passion the kids showed early in the game,” the coach said. “Our plan was to try to get (West Burlington) down. They’re a very big, large team and so we wanted to run them from sideline to sideline and tire them out.”
The Bears’ ability to switch successfully between the pass and run “accomplished just that,” he said.
“We got a quick lead and dominated the whole football game from beginning to end,” Pedersen said.
Cornwell, who prompted more chatter with his kicking and punting plays that night, also threw 18 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown. But when the Bears Sports Information Director Jason Miller told him he broke a school record for field goals in a game, his smile faded to stunned disbelief — he had no idea. And on top of all of that, it was a year ago against West Burlington that Cornwell broke his collarbone and was out for the remainder of the regular season.
“We came out really confident and we just came out and played our game,” he said. “Three field goals are all credited to the holder, the snapper and the whole line giving me a lot of time.”
West Burlington was “obviously big” on defense, he said.
“We pounded it inside really good and we made them come up and stop the run and that opened up play-action fakes,” he said.
Pedersen said special teams gave West Branch good field position throughout the contest.
“Beau kicked the ball extremely well from the punting game and Javier Zamudio did a good job on kickoffs, placing them,” the coach said. “Our coverage was very good. I thought we played a solid first half.”
The Bears did not do as well completing drives in the second quarter, the coach said, and the coaches will take time to evaluate those drives “to correct anything that is correctable.”
“When you get an opportunity to be in the red zone, you need to score, and we didn’t do that three different time,” he said.
The Bears kept the Falcons from crossing midfield on several drives.
“That’s what you hope for — that the defense steps up,” he said. “They did really good. That was a real key.”
In what could be argued as the play of the game, West Branch had just gotten the ball back with 3:46 left in the first half, but the drive stalled and lost a yard to the Bears’ 40. Set to punt, the long snap flew high and Cornwell was just able to get his fingers on it enough to knock it down in front of him.
By the time he picked it up, three West Burlington defenders were closing in on him, breaking up any chances for a punt. Cornwell cut to his left, took several choppy steps and tossed it toward the Falcons’ sideline to Graves, who was tackled at the West Burlington 41.
“It was a great, head-up play by both Beau and Cheese to get us a first down,” Pedersen said, adding that West Branch could use a fake punt play in its repertoire to keep pressure off the punter.
“My first instinct was to just pick it up and do something,” Cornwell said. “Cheese was just standing there wide open so I just chucked it up to him.”
Pedersen said that since West Burlington did not score until most of first team players left the field, he considers it a shutout.
“We gave them that last touchdown,” he said, referring to a fumbled punt about 20 yards from the goal line which the Falcons recovered. “But defense played extremely well.”
West Burlington managed only one first down in the first half, and five others after second team relieved the starters.
The home team managed 128 total yards.
“To hold a 3A school to 120 yards total is a tremendous accomplishment,” Pedersen said. “And to get second team in there — they deserve to get that opportunity. We were extremely happy that night because it was hard for (West Burlington) to run the ball. … This is one of the more aggressive defenses I’ve seen in three to four years.”
The Des Moines Register’s football rankings bumped the Bears up to No. 8 this week. In the preseason, West Branch started at No. 10, then moved up to No. 9 last week. District opponent Bellevue continues to move up as well, remaining one slot above the Bears.
Pedersen said the coaches stressed harder hitting this season, and that is paying off on second team as well.
“We’re really attacking people right now, and intimidating them,” he said. “That makes it more fun for the kids.”
Freshman Jeff Bowie led the team with 9 1/2 tackles and two solo sacks. Junior John Hatfield finished with six tackles and senior Billy Friis had 5 1/2 tackles.
West Branch completed 60 percent of its passes for 194 yards and the offense finished the night with 335 total yards.
Senior Ben Thompson caught six passes for 85 yards and a score; Graves had seven catches for 82 yards; and Brady Lukavsky had six catches for 18 yards.
Cornwell said he felt the receivers for doing a “great job” as did the line for protecting him.
“(Offensive coordinator John Hiersemann) was putting me in the right situation to get a victory and complete a lot of passes … we saw their defense on film and just tried to attack their weaknesses,” he said.
Sophomore Tanner Lukavsky and Cornwell both scored touchdowns on the ground, and senior wide receiver Ben Thompson — who was celebrating his birthday Friday — caught a 55-yard pass for the third touchdown of the night.
Cornwell said he ran to the end zone to wish Thompson “Happy birthday” after the scoring play.
Lukavsky, the lead running back, had 18 carries for 116 yards.
Pedersen said he felt West Branch put forth a “fairly balanced” offense, though it leaned heavier on running plays.
“We do whatever the defense gives us,” he said, quoting former University of Iowa Head Football Coach Hayden Fry who liked to say a team needs to “Scratch where it itches.”
The head coach also praised his offensive coordinator.
“John called some really good plays to follow (Fry’s) philosophy,” Pedersen said.
Sophomore running back Wyatt Goodale caught a pass near the Bears’ sideline late in the second quarter and picked up three yards before taking a hard hit from a Falcon defender. He tried to get up, but rolled back on the ground.
Coaches and trainers helped him off the field, with one asking if he had a cramp.
“It’s not a cramp,” he said as they laid him out in the grass.
It turned out to be two broken ankle bones, Pedersen said later. Goodale borrowed crutches from one of the team managers.
Pedersen said Goodale was set to have surgery on Tuesday, Sept. 5, and will likely miss the remainder of the season.
“His recovery is really promising, but it is a disappointing loss for us because he’s a two-way starter,” the coach said. “Wyatt’s the kind of kid who will bounce back and we’re going to support him as a family.”
Pedersen said Goodale will continue to attend practice and will likely help with coaching.
“He’s got a bright future ahead of him with two years remaining,” the coach said. “It’s a tough break for Wyatt.”
With non-district play out of the way, West Branch on Friday will host the Jesup J-Hawks at the Little Rose Bowl.
Jesup lost its two opening games against Aplington-Parkersburg (54-7) and East Buchanan (41-6), but Pedersen said the J-Hawks bring a “very aggressive team.”
“It’s a challenge for us,” he said. “We need to continue to learn and improve on what we’re doing.”
He said West Branch will again focus on their opponents’ weaknesses “and continue to work those angles.”
Friday will also host the Bears’ fourth annual Throwback Game where players will wear purple jerseys from when the school colors were purple and white and the mascot was the Polar Bears.
West Branch football will host both young and old players, featuring the Class of 1967 and youth football players.
The team will start by introducing players from youth football league teams and then turn the spotlight to both the high school graduates from 50 years ago and what Pedersen calls the “mythical state champions.”
The Class of 1967 includes the 1966 football season where the Bears finished the Eastern Iowa Hawkeye Conference undefeated. At the time, the state had not yet started hosting playoffs that pitted conference teams against one another for a state championship. Players from that era will be recognized at halftime.
That team included both Pedersen and his longtime offensive coordinator, Larry “Lurch” Rummells. Now the head coach, Pedersen said he expect many local players as well as many others from “across the country” to visit the Little Rose Bowl.
Members of the Class of 1967 will take part in The Walk down Oliphant Street to the football field. He hopes as many as 50 from the 70-plus class will attend.
“This is a very close-knit group who did a lot in athletic and co-curricular activites,” Pedersen said. “They are a very well-rounded class.”
The reunion of sorts will include heading to the Down Under bar after the game and to the Brick Arch Winery the next day.
“I hope to get a really huge crowd this Friday,” he said. “After knocking off a 2A and 3A team, we need a 12th person — the fans and student body — to (to open district play) and have a big crowd for the Class of 1967.”
West Branch 30,
West Burlington-Notre Dame-Danville 6
West Branch 6 17 7 0 30
West Burlington 0 0 0 6 6
First downs 13 6
Rush-pass-penalty 6-6-1 4-1-1
Rushing yards 141 64
Passing: Completions-Attempts 18-30 12-17
Passing yards 194 64
Passing: TD-Interceptions 1-0 0-0
Total plays 66 48
Offensive yards 335 128
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 9-60 6-56
Defensive sacks-yards lost 2-19 1-8
Time of possession 29:05 18:55
3rd down efficiency 2 of 15 1 of 13
4th down efficiency 1 of 2 0 of 0
Punts-average yards 6-34.83 11-29.36
WB: Tanner Lukavsky 4 run; kick fails; 7:39
WB: Beau Cornwell 1 run; Cornwell pass to Ben Thompson for 2-point conversion; 9:08
WB: Cornwell 29-yard FG; 5:50
WB: Cornwell 24-yard FG; 52.9 seconds
WB: Cornwell 39-yard FG; 15 seconds
WB: Cornwell 55-yard pass to Ben Thompson; Javier Zamudio kick; 3:54
WBND: Brian Brem 8 run; 2-pt. conversion fails; 1:58
• • • • •
Passing — Beau Cornwell 18-194, 1 TD; Brett Schiele 1-0
Rushing — Beau Cornwell 3-12, 1 TD; Dakota Kaalberg 4-5; Brett Schiele 1-(-2); Jacob Graves 4-0; Tanner Lukavsky 18-116, 1 TD; John Hatfield 1-1; Levi Kleinmeyer 4-9
Receiving — Ben Thompson 7-85, 1 TD, 1 PAT; Brady Lukavsky 2-18; Brett Schiele 7-0; Wyatt Goodale 2-3; Jacob Graves 9-82; Tanner Lukavsky 2-6
Tackles (solos-assists-sacks) — Luca Passeri 0-2-0; Evan O’Neil 0-4-0; Ben Thompson 0-1-0; Brady Lukavsky 2-2-0; Dakota Kaalberg 0-3-0; Zach Thompson 1-0-0; Brett Schiele 2-5-0; Wyatt Goodale 1-1-0; Jacob Graves 1-2-0; Morgan Hartz 0-1-0; Tanner Lukavsky 1-2-0; John Hatfield 3-6-0; Levi Kleinmeyer 1-1-0; Cameron Howsare 1-2-0; Jaden Hierseman 1-0-0; Dalyn Pederson 2-2-0; Javier Zamudio 0-1-0; Billy Friis 3-5-0; Andrew Black 1-4-0; Jeff Bowie 7-4-2; Jacob Barnhart 1-2-0
Kick returns: Brett Schiele 1-21
Punt returns-Yards: Luca Passeri 1-(-2); Brett Schiele 2-20
Punting: Beau Cornwell 6 for 209 yards
Kickoffs: Javier Zamudio 7 for 308 yards
PATs: Ben Thompson 1-1 conversion; Javier Zamudio 1-2
FGs: Beau Cornwell 3 for 3