CEDAR FALLS - Spirit Lake came up with the plays on offense and defense when it needed to in defeating Kuemper Catholic 17-10 in the Class 2A Semifinal on Saturday.
On offense, a 44-yard run by Cody Poock highlighted the first half as Spirit Lake took a 10-0 lead at the break. A 69-yard pass from Paul Brown to Casey Spaeth highlighted the second half.
The win sends Spirit Lake back to the 2A final for the second straight season. The Indians (12-1) will play Mediapolis (13-0) at 2:06 p.m. on Friday. The Bulldogs defeated Dyersville Beckman 19-6 in the other 2A semifinal Saturday evening.
Spirit Lake’s Tanner Kroon and Cody Norton put pressure on Kuemper Catholic’s Cole Neary in Saturday’s Class 2A semifinal at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. The Indians will play Medapolis is Friday’s championship game at 2:06 p.m.
EDN photo by David Swartz
Spirit Lake coach Josh Bolluyt said he's just happy to spend another week with his team, which features 24 seniors.
Both teams featured defense through most of the first quarter. Kuemper started with a three-and-out, but caught a break when Spirit Lake fumbled the punt.
However, the Indians defense took over on downs four plays later. Spirit Lake only managed one first down before punting the ball back to Kuemper.
The Indians defense again forced a three-and-out, but the short punt gave them the ball at the Kuemper 43.
Poock was tackled for a one-yard loss on first down, but then found some room on second down as he broke at least three tackles on a 44-yard touchdown run. Brett Cochran-Bray's kick made the score 7-0 with 4:48 remaining in the first quarter.
The two teams traded possessions, when Kuemper had its first decent offensive possession.
Junior running back Chase Rupiper went to work on the next drive with a 39-yard run into Indians territory.
But on fourth-and-11 from the Spirit Lake 31, Ben Spaeth busted through the line to sack Cole Neary for an 11-yard loss.
Spirit Lake put together another good drive on its next possession.
Brown connected with pock on a fourth-and-15 from the 30 that gave the Indians first-and-goal from the 9-yard line
However three plays later, Spirit Lake had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Cochran-Bray for a 10-0 lead with 3:42 left in the half.
After exchanging three-and-out possession, Kuemper drove into Spirit Lake territory and took three shots at the end zone from the 37. The final play before half was a hail mary that was broken up by several Indian players in the endzone.
Kuemper started the second half with a kick that didn't go 10 yards. Spirit Lake was unable to take advantage of the good field position and punted after a fourth-and-16.
After an exchange of possessions, Kuemper had gained field position. When Brown was unable to control a long snap, the Knights tackled him at the 2-yard line.
After the punt, Kuemper had the ball at the Indians' 31. Spirit lake's defense again came threw with Rick Maris coming up with a sack afte a Kuemper first down. Bryson McCabe also broke up a pass in the end zone. On fourth-and-15 from the 25-yard line, the Knights' Kolby Hilgenberg kicked a 42-yard field goal to cut the deficit to a touchdown, 10-3, with 2:45 remaining in the third period.
Spirit Lake had an immediate answer.
Two plays later from scrimmage, Indians quarterback Paul Brown connected with Casey Spaeth on a 69-yard strike. The Knight defender got a hand on the ball, but it bounced into Spaeth's hands. With the defender falling down, he had an easy jaunt to the end zone as Spirit Lake led 17-3.
Kuemper began to put a drive together in the fourth quarter. But on second-and-1 from the Indians' 11-yard line, Brandon Stoll picked off a Neary pass.
Spirit Lake couldn't come up with a first down and were forced to punt three plays later.
That's when the Knights' got a break.
A low snap bounced away from punter Poock before he kicked it out of bounds at the 4-yard line. Two plays later Neary ran around the right side for the score to cut the deficit to 17-10 with 3:13 left in the game.
Brown covered up the ensuing onside kick attempt.
A few plays later, Spirit Lake tried to convert a fourth-and-15 with a fake punt. Hilgenberg intercepted the pass and was brought down at the Kuemper 39. Two incomplete passes later, Kuemper tried a reverse and pass by Ben Hicks that also went incomplete.
Neary's fourth down pass was completed short of the first down and Spirit Lake ran out the clock.
Neary, who had passed for over 2,000 this season, was limited to 80 yards on 13-of-33 attempts with the one interception. Rupiper was the bright spot for the Knights as he rushed 22 times for 117 yards and caught six passes for 24 yards. Alex Drees had four catches for 42 yards.
For Spirit Lake, Brown was 11-17 for 186 yards and one interception. Spaeth caught two passes for 78 yards, pock had three catches for 55 yards, McCabe had three catches for 20 yards, Nick Amundson had one catch for 26 yards, Tyler Petersen had one catch for 7 yards and Maris had one catch for no gain.
On the ground, Poock carried the ball 16 times for 64 yards. McCabe had 21 yards on five carries. Maris had one carry for 9 yards. Brown had eight attempts for -34 yards.
Ben Spaeth led the defense with 12 tackles including two sacks. Maris had 10 tackles with one sack. Poock finished with nine tackles including two for a loss.