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Algona comeback falls short in semifinal loss to OABCIG

Algona comeback falls short in semifinal loss to OABCIG


For the Algona High School football team, Saturday’s state semifinal game was wild, exhilarating, frustrating and ultimately, a disappointment. 

Going up against No. 4 seeded OABCIG (Odebolt-Arthur-Battle Creek-Ida Grove Community School), the Bulldogs were not short on weapons.

With Wyatt Wegener, Monte Bawden, Garrett Schmitt, and Tyler Manske all capable of making big plays, the Bulldogs had cruised through this season to an undefeated record. 

But no matter what the Bulldogs threw at the Falcons on Saturday, OABCIG quarterback Cooper DeJean proved to be unstoppable.

DeJean had thrown for 2,897 yards and 36 touchdowns on the season, while rushing for 1,044 yards and 21 scores.

Against the Bulldogs, DeJean went wild, finishing with 357 passing yards and 79 yards on the ground to lead the Falcons to a 41-32 win.

“You just try your best,” coach Andy Jacobson said of facing DeJean. “He’s going to break angles and you try to replicate it in practice. He’s a special player and they have a very good football team. I thought he played very well tonight.”

The first drives for both teams were successful, with the Falcons scoring an opening-drive touchdown on a 1-yard handoff to freshman Griffin Diersen.

Algona responded on its next drive with a touchdown of its own, also a 1-yard touchdown run on third down, this one from senior Garrett Schmidt. The PAT hit the upright and OABCIG held onto a one-point lead at 7-6. 

Midway through the second quarter, Algona drove the ball 74 yards for a score, the touchdown coming on a two-yard run by Wegener on first and goal. The touchdown gave Algona a 13-7 lead. But the lead was short-lived, as a 36-yard pass to East Harms gave the Falcons a first-and-10 at the 23 yard line.

Three plays later, DeJean ran the ball in from the two for a touchdown, to give OABCIG a one-point lead at 14-13.

On its next drive, Algona drove the ball 80 yards on 13 plays, the finisher a five-yard touchdown pass to senior Jason Cecil to go up 20-14.

But yet again, the Falcons punched back, scoring a touchdown on their next drive, a 42-yard pass to Jake Neiman that set the crowd wild and gave OABCIG their third lead of the game. 

At halftime, the Falcons led the Bulldogs by a 21-20 score. 

On its first drive of the third quarter, OABCIG scored a touchdown on a 30-yard scoring pass to Neiman, his second of the game and the Falcons led 29-20.

Later in the quarter, Bawden caught a pass and ran 43 yards for a Bulldogs' touchdown. The ensuing PAT was fumbled and kicked out of bounds, with yet another scoring drive ending in frustration for the Bulldogs. 

Harms caught three passes on the Falcons' next drive, the final one a four-yard touchdown reception, to give the Falcons a 35-26 lead.

Harms caught another touchdown pass in the first minute of the fourth quarter, this time a 21-yarder to put the Falcons up 41-26. 

After an interception around the eight-minute mark by Noah Nelson, it looked like Algona might have new life.

But three plays later, Manske threw a pass over the middle that was picked off by a Falcons defender. 

After the Bulldogs got the ball back, it happened again, when Nieman picked off a pass from Manske on 1st-and-10 with 6:11 left in the game. After a three-and-out, Algona got the ball back.

After a 24-yard reception from James Wartick gave the Bulldogs the ball at the 22, the team took four plays to score a touchdown. The score came on a five-yard pass from Mankse to Bawden.

The Bulldogs attempted a two-point conversion, but the pass sailed over the receivers' heads. 

Algona got one last shot to tie the game with less than a minute remaining in the game.

Manske started the drive with a 33-yard pass to Wegener for a first down at the 48.

"We just tried to get as many possessions as we could," Jacobson said. "We were trying to get the ball back as many times as we could, and continue to put points on the board. We just continued to battle until the clock hit zero and I think our kids did that."

After three incompletions, Cecil caught a short pass on fourth down and lateraled the ball to Wegener for the first down.

From the 35, Manske threw an arching heave toward the endzone, which was intercepted by Falcons’ junior Trust Ward for the game-clinching turnover.

After getting the ball, the Falcons kneeled, securing their first-ever trip to the state finals. 

"We just kept on pushing," Wegener said. "Like, it doesn't matter what happened, let's keep on trying. This is our possible last game. Why wouldn't you want to play with your guys one last time?"

Despite the loss, Wegener still had a smile on his face after the game. He was disappointed by the outcome, but could keep in mind how far the program has come in its past four seasons. 

"It was really fun," Wegener said. "Four years ago, when I was a freshman and my brother (Josh) was a senior, we went 0-9. It's really nice to be here. We wish we could've come out with the win, but all credit to (OABCIG), they're a great team."

Wegener finished the game with 138 yards on 12 receptions, with 92 yards rushing. Manske had 300 yards through the air, with two passing touchdowns. 

The Bulldogs were making their first state semifinal appearance since 1984.

"It means a lot," Wegener said of the Bulldogs' spectacular season. "Over the years, we've learned from and fed off our seniors. Last year, they really set a good example for us, and we're trying to send that to the younger guys too."

The Bulldogs finish the season with a record of 11-1. The Falcons will play at the UNI-Dome at 1 p.m. Friday, against Waukon (12-0), for the state title.


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