CEDAR FALLS – Mike Donovan flew across the field all afternoon. He bulldozed his way into the endzone twice. He reeled in seven receptions. He controlled the middle of the Regina defense from his linebacking position. He even stood on the back line of kick returns.
As the clock on the scoreboard crept under a minute to play, it was finally time for the Regina senior to come off the field.
When the reserves replaced the entire offense, Donovan slapped his teammate five and jogged off the field, finally taking off his helmet – for the last time.
“No better way to end it,” Donovan said.
When he reached the sideline, Donovan acted no different than his on-field presence. He traveled from side to side pumping his arm in the air, verbalizing what the 35-14 score inside the UNI-Dome couldn’t.
“I was just yelling, three-peat,” Donovan said.
The celebratory buzz in the dome, muffled his cheer, but no one’s play spoke louder Friday morning against Council Bluffs St. Albert.
Donovan opened and closed the game for the Regals. His first touchdown put Regina up 7-0. The next time he found the endzone, it cemented a 35-14 win. The two scores accounted for just a sliver of his contributions.
A mathematician would have difficulty tracking his yards, never mind quantifying his value. In all Donovan amassed 176 all-purpose yards.
“We were able to get the ball to him and he was able to work magic,” Ward said. “He’s just the man. I don’t have any words to describe how good he is. He just does so many things for our team in so many different facets of the game.”
In addition to his 22 yards rushing, Donovan gained 125 yards receiving on seven receptions. His long of 64 yards set up a 35 yard field goal, that opened the Regals’ lead to 10 points.
He finished with 16 yards returning kicks and even gained yards on defense. Late in the fourth, Donovan stepped in front of a crossing route for his team’s third interception of the quarter. He brought it back 13 yards, and eventually scored on a six-yard run.
“He’s a blue collar football player. A Jack of all trades, he can do anything: catch, run, block, tackle, interceptions,” Regina head coach Marv Cook said before continuing after a short breath. “Kick, punt. I mean the guy’s a phenomenal football player. He’ll do anything you ask him to.”
In the process of tallying yards about every way possible, Donovan took yards away from the Falcons too. He made five tackles in the championship game, including one for loss. Only one Regal, Elliot Halsch with 11.5, had more.
But no player had more touchdowns or was directly responsible for more points. Donovan scored early in the fourth on a six yard run, but an illegal formation penalty negated what would have been his second of the game.
As a linebacker he made up for it later. After his game-sealing interception, three plays later, he plowed over the goal line from six yards out.
“He’s a great player on our team,” Ward said. “He does a lot of those smaller things that a lot of people don’t notice.”
Two years ago no one noticed Donovan. As Regina won its first state title, the then-sophomore witnessed the entire game from the sideline. Even as the reserves came in, much like they did against St. Albert, Donovan stood idle.
Friday he never stayed in the same spot for long and people took notice. And even if they missed him, they could hear his roar of celebration from the sideline to the tone of a perfect season.
“You can’t ask for a better season,” Donovan said. “I don’t know, just three-peat. That’s all I can think”