Comets clinch playoff berth, 48-13
CONRAD – BCLUW coach Jess VanderWeerdt had to plug a few holes in the trenches.
Though his shift in personnel showed very few leaks as a unit Friday.
Limiting the Wolverines to five first downs, 36 rushing yards and 212 yards of total offense, BCLUW wrapped up third place in Class A Division 4 and its first playoff berth since 2006 with a 48-13 drumming of GMG Friday.
Conner Ubben rushed for three touchdowns and tossed a pair of TDs to Taylor Sams as the Comets (4-4, 3-2) piled up 455 yards of total offense. Ubben reached the end zone on quarterback keepers of 9, 7 and 2 yards all in the last 6:11 of the second quarter to stretch a one-point lead to 27-6 at the half.
“It starts up front. This is how we hoped it would go,” said VanderWeerdt, who saw an opportunity for his team to dominate the line of scrimmage after comparing stats from his team and GMG against Belle Plaine.
“They weren’t able to run the ball up the middle very well. Chuck (Neff) and Nolan (Emley) got that push and kept that line of scrimmage to keep those linebackers free.”
Due to the suspension of Lane Caster, Jeremy Burnett and Gavin Patterson stemming from an incident Saturday, VanderWeerdt moved around several players on his roster including Clarke Macy, Carter King and sophomore Austin Willett, who made his first varsity start at receiver.
The transitions proved pretty seamless as BCLUW’s defense allowed just two first downs in the opening half, one resulting from a roughing the kicker penalty, as GMG managed just eight rushing yards in the first two quarters.
“We couldn’t get a couple of their kids blocked,” said GMG coach Mike Spurlin. “When we can’t get the people up front blocked, we can’t run our offense. It got to a point where we had to pass most of the time and even when we threw we still couldn’t get most people blocked.”
The Wolverines (4-4, 2-3) found some early momentum with a 65-yard strike from Bridger Claassen to Bryce Newcomb on the third play of the second half. The score pulled GMG within 27-13, though the Comets closed things out with 21 unanswered points in the fourth.
Luke Asche’s 3-yard touchdown run stretched the margin to 34-13 on the opening play of the fourth, before Emley blocked a punt on the Wolverines’ ensuing possession to set up another score. Ubben hooked up with Sams for their second scoring connection with a 15-yard pass at the 10:05 mark. Sams led the Comets’ receiving corps with 144 yards on five catches, while Ubben completed 9-of-12 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while also helping out on defense.
Tyler Lutes punched in a 2-yard score in the final minute and led the BCLUW ground game with 109 yards on 15 carries. Asche added 84 yards on 18 rushes and Ubben dashed for 66 yards on eight carries.
Sams got the Comets on the board with a 37-yard reception to close the first frame, before Claassen matched it with a 37-yard pass to a wide-open Dillon Slingluff early in the second. BCLUW blocked the extra point to ensure they held the upper hand all night, before Ubben widened the gap with his three rushing scores.
“When we got in the red zone tonight, we put the ball in the end zone, which is the first time we’ve consistently done that all year,” said VanderWeerdt, whose squad has responded from a 1-3 start by winning three of its last four.
“Our kids didn’t quit. Realistically we knew our schedule was front-loaded.”
Caster, Burnett and Patterson will miss at least the next two games – including the program’s first playoff game in seven years, which VanderWeerdt expects to be against Turkey Valley in Jackson Junction.
“We miss those guys. We’re going to miss them next week and we’re going to miss them against (Turkey Valley),” said VanderWeerdt.
“Just having that extra depth and being able to roll more guys in and out. … Hopefully we can stay healthy. Our guys are pretty excited, it’s been ’06 since there’s been a playoff team here.”
Claassen finished 9-of-12 passing for 176 yards and two scores, while Newcomb was his primary target with four receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown. Slingluff had two grabs for 42 yards. Vaughn had a 20-yard catch and led the Wolverines on the ground with 33 yards on 13 carries – 29 of which came on a fake punt.
Both teams cap the regular season on the road next Friday. GMG takes on No. 10 ranked Gladbrook-Reinbeck, while BCLUW faces off with Iowa Valley.
BCLUW won the last meeting between the teams 48-17 in Garwin last year.