IOWA CITY — The only team that pushed No. 1 Iowa City Regina all season stayed close again. But this for only a half.
West Branch took an early lead, but the Regals scored 27 unanswered points, starting with a late rally in the second quarter, for a 27-9 victor last night in a Class 1A second-round playoff game.
“We had a really shaky start,” Regina Coach Marv Cook said. “I thought our defense grew up today. They’ve been playing solid all year and this was just a huge moment for them.”
Regina (11-0), winners of 39 straight games, will play No. 10 Maquoketa Valley (10-1) Friday in a quarterfinal matchup.
Regina’s normally explosive offense turned the ball over on downs and lost two fumbles in the first two quarters to fall behind.
It didn’t look much better the next drive, when the Regals faced a second-and-17 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half. But quarterback Mark Ward connected with Matt Streb on a 75-yard touchdown bomb just past the reach of a leaping defensive back.
Then Regina forced a quick stop and Ward plunged in the end zone in for a 1-yard score in the final minute of the half for a 14-9 lead.
“We just had to get into the flow of the game,” Ward said. “We started slow. We can’t keep doing that.”
For the Bears (8-3), the loss ends a four-year streak of reaching the state semifinals. West Branch controlled the line in the first quarter, but then managed only 55 yards of offense in the last three quarters.
All-state running back Cade Jones limped off the field midway through the first with a knee injury. Jones returned in the second quarter, but his mobility was clearly limited. The senior finished with 47 yards, including only one carry in the second half.
“That’s a major, major loss,” West Branch Coach Butch Pedersen said. “He couldn’t run. He just couldn’t run.”
Regina running back Riley Dixon was in a walking boot and on crutches after the game after sustaining an unknown injury late in the fourth quarter. Cook didn’t know the extent of the injury.
West Branch lost a 15-13 instant classic to Regina in Week 3, scoring a touchdown and then missing the tying two-point conversion in the final seconds.
The Bears had their chances again in the rematch.