Aurelia moves on to meet top-ranked Sentral-Fenton
Aurelia cruised into the eight-man semifinals here Saturday afternoon with a surprisingly easy and dominating win over Remsen-St. Mary's, 40-14.
Just a week earlier, the Bulldogs had to score 20 fourth quarter points in a come-from-behind 28-23 win over the Hawks.
But this wasn't a regular season game for the Bulldogs, or for Remsen-St. Mary's. It was the opening round of the eight-man playoffs, and the Bulldogs took that to heart.
"I'm not sure our kids were ready to play last week against Remsen-St. Mary's," Aurelia coach Myron Radke said Sunday night. "I don't know if knowing we were already in the playoffs made a difference or not. I do know we underestimated them, because Remsen-St. Mary's has a fine football team."
But the Hawks were no match for Aurelia, particularly the Bulldogs' defense. It held R-SM to 74-yards rushing on 45 attempts. The leading rusher in the district, Hawk senior Mike Wiederholt, was limited to just 18 yards on 11 carries.
"It was by far our best defensive performance of the year," added Radke. "When you hold a team to under 50 yards rushing in any game, it's good defense. When you do it against a quality football team, it's even better."
Things will only get more difficult for Aurelia as they move on in the playoffs. It meets top-ranked Sentral-Fenton in Aurelia at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals for the right to play in the state title game the following Friday at the Uni-Dome in Cedar Rapids.
"We'll have to match the way we played Saturday in order to beat Sentral-Fenton," added Radke. "They're the No. 1-ranked team in the state for a good reason. It's a heckuva challenge for us."
Probably more than Remsen-St. Mary's was, even though the game was close through most of the first half.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring with 8 minutes, 31 seconds left in the first quarter on a 34-yard scoring pass from quarterback Tyler Nelson to wide-out Tyler Kannegeiter.
Kannegeiter had to out-leap a Hawk defender to catch the, ball, which was underthrown. Once he gained possession, he walked into the end zone from about the five-yard line.
"It was our day and not theirs, and that play was a good indication of that," added Radke. "Saturday, everything just clicked for us."
But Remsen St. Mary's struck right back, mounting a 50-yard scoring drive capped by a 12-yard scoring run by junior Tyler Schorg. That touchdown came less than three minutes after the Bulldogs had broken the ice, with 5:31 left in the first.
"I thought 'oh, no, here we go again,'" Radke said. "We gave up a couple of big plays on their scoring drive, but after that, we stopped them. I guess our defense just decided to get down to business."
It was all Aurelia after that.
One-thousand yard rusher Brent Kai caught a long pass from Nelson to set up Aurelia's second score. One player later, Kai rushed in from seven yards out. With 1:46 left in the first frame, the Bulldogs led 14-6.
They just kept rolling.
The Bulldogs kept stuffing Remsen-St. Mary's at the line of scrimmage in the second quarter, then with 1 minute, 36 seconds left in the half, return man Tim Fordyce scored on a 55-yard punt play.
"That might have been the turning point," added Radke. "After that, we were in control all the way.
"The return was set up to the right and we had a nice wall of blockers on that side. After it fell apart a little later in the runback, Tim broke it back toward the left side and took it the distance."
Aurelia put the knife in deeper with two seconds left in the first half, when Nelson connected with tight end Matt Berg on a 22-yard scoring pass. Aurelia led 27-6 at the half.
"It might have been our best effort of the year," added Radke. "I do know we hit harder in this game than we had all year."
The Bulldog defense was stingy through the third quarter with the team scoring once, that coming on a six-yard run by Nelson.
"A real key was that we had some sustained drives that ate up a lot of clock and kept the ball away from their potent offense," Radke said.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs went up 40-6 with a six-yard scoring pass from Kolin Petersen to Berg.
Remsen-St. Mary's Schorg scored his second touchdown of the game with 2:55 left in the fourth quarter, but it reminded the Hawks of only what could have been.
"It was good, old fashioned smashmouth football," added Radke. "It was two very goof teams going at it just like next Saturday will be."
Nelson had a big day passing for the Bulldogs. Along with two touchdown passes, he completed 6 of 12 attempts for 148 yards.
Remsen-St. Mary's did a good job handing the Aurelia rushing attack, holding the Bulldogs to 119 yards on 44 carries. Kai was held to 48 yards rushing on 21 tries.
Running back John Ireland had a good day catching passes out of the backfield, notching three catches for 46 yards. Berg caught two balls for 28 yards.
In Saturday's other eight-man playoff semifinal, Adair-Casey is at Stanton.