The North Fayette football team doesn’t need Mapquest to find its way to the UNI-Dome. The Hawks have become quite familiar with the road to Cedar Falls.
Monday night the second-ranked Hawks earned another reason to make that trek.
For the fourth time in the last six years the Hawks qualified for the Class 2A state semifinals, beating Dyersville Beckman, 34-21, in a state quarterfinal Monday night at Beckman High School. It’s the Hawks’ second straight appearance in the state semifinals.
“It’s been a year-long goal,” North Fayette senior Reid Nuss said. “We made it there last year. Our seniors go together before the season and we talked about it and we wanted to at least make it to the semifinal round again and go from there.”
North Fayette improved to 12-0 with its second win over the Blazers this season, scoring 34 points in both. They did it with a heavy dose of their traditional run offense. The Hawks tallied 277 yards on the ground, scoring all five touchdowns with the run.
It’s a stop-us-if-you-can mentality.
“In all honesty, that’s what we’re going to do,” Hawks Coach Bob Lape said. “If we can’t do it, we’ll just take our ball and go home and say you’re better.”
Outside of Beckman jumping to an early 8-0 lead, the Hawks were the better team. They answered shortly after falling in the early hole. Nuss capped an 8-play, 72-yard drive — all runs — with a 9-yard TD run, keeping the ball and running around the left end on an option play. It was similar to a 31-yard run he had earlier in the drive to set up the score.
Nuss went to the well again, finding the end zone on an 11-yard keeper around the right end. The Hawks drove 73 yards on nine plays before Nuss crossed the goal line untouched and took its first lead 14-8 with 10:03 in the second.
“We have that inside run going for us,” Nuss said. “I can keep it outside when they’re coming up. It’s a read we’ve had all year long.”
Momentum stayed in their favor when Tom Heying intercepted Connor Golden two plays into the Blazers’ next series, returning it 36 yards to the Beckman 9. Greco then pounded in breaking a couple tackles and then diving into the end zone for a 9-yard TD run, making it 21-8 with 2:46 before the half. It remained that way to the break, thanks to a Nuss interception deep in North Fayette territory, thwarting a late Beckman drive.
Nuss rushed for 85 yards and scored three touchdowns, adding an 18-yard on another keeper in the fourth quarter long. giving North Fayette a 34-8 lead. Nuss intercepted two passes on defense as well, helping limit Beckman’s strong pass attack. He also played defensive end a little and kicked off for the Hawks. He did everything short of driving the bus home.
“He’s a really outstanding athlete,” Lape said. “it’s a tribute to him. he’s worked hard in the off-season over the past two to three years and this is the result.”
Greco capped the hawks’ opening drive of the second half with a 4-yard run. He surpassed the 1,700-yard mark for the season, rushing for 139 yards giving him 1,702.
“It’s a total team effort,” Lape said of the running attack. “The guys up front have to do their job, all the backs block for each other (and) they carry out their fakes well. We;re just fortunate that way. We’ve got good kids that believe in the philosphy and it workls for us.”
Beckman started strong with a score on its opening possession. the Blazers drove 74 yards, capped by Golden’s 6-yard pass to a wide open Ty Troutman on 3rd-and-goal. The TD catch was the third third-down conversion for Beckman, who also converted a fourth down on that drive.
In a scary event for Beckman, near the end of the third, Golden received a hard hit as he threw the ball. The wobbly ball was picked off by Nuss, but Golden remained motionless on the ground. A medical team work on Golden, immobilizing him and taking him off the field after about a 20-minute delay.
Blazers Coach Gregg Hammann said his quarterback was groggy and would undergo tests. Ethan brehm came in for Golden, throwing for 134 yards, including a 49-yard TD to troutman, who finished with 171 receiving yards for the Blazers.
Beckman finishes the season 9-3, winning eight straight games since dropping its first game to North Fayette in Week 3. It was the first time a Beckman win won two playoff games in a season and only the second trip the Blazers have made to the state quarterfinals.
The Hawks advances to the state semifinals, facing top-ranked Iowa City Regina (12-0). The Regals handled No. 4 Sigourney-Keota, 35-7, in a quarterfinal Monday night. They play Monday, Nov. 15 at 10:30 a.m.
Lape called the Dome a “bittersweet” place, losing to eventual state champions in the semifinal round, suffering their last loss to Solon in the 2009 semifinals. They won’t be worried about past performances and try to extend their winning ways.
“It’s just another game to us,” Nuss said. “We want to keep the streak going.”