It was an instant classic last year in the Class A quarterfinals. Two teams as evenly matched as could be fighting all the way to the final buzzer. In the end, it was Garrigan coming out victorious over West Hancock 12-8 to punch its ticket to the UNI-Dome where it eventually finished as the Class A runner-up.
Flash forward a year and we have the same matchup, but this time it's to open the postseason. The Eagles (6-3) travel Friday night to Garrigan (9-0) for a much-anticipated rematch.
There are a wealth of new faces leading the way for each team, but don’t think either has forgotten what happened on the October night a year ago.
“I think that motivation is there because how often do you get a second chance to come back and play them in the playoffs?” West Hancock coach Bob Sanger said. “They realize that it was so close last year, and this year they want to take care of business.”
Garrigan, too, understands what that game meant in a deep postseason run. Even considering where the Golden Bears ended up, their game against the Eagles was one that team and coach Marty Wadle won’t forget.
“It was a great game – one of the best I’ve ever coached in, and I’ve coached a lot of games,” Wadle said.
Sanger and Wadle bring in more than 75 years of coaching experience into this one – Sanger with 50 years and Wadle at 26 – and there’s no secrets between the two.
The Eagles know they’ll have to be prepared for about anything Friday night with Garrigan capable of moving the ball in a multitude of ways.
Quarterback Brad Capesius, who was under center for that playoff run a year ago, has taken the next step this season in leading the Golden Bear offense. The junior has thrown for 668 yards and 10 touchdowns, and has 363 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Drew Bacha has given Garrigan a jolt out of the backfield in his first year starting as he leads the team with 892 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“(Wadle) makes you play the whole field,” Sanger said. “Every year he has kids in every position that when they get their turn, they step in and away they go.”
Wadle, too, knows the importance of slowing down the horses West Hancock trots out in its backfield.
Senior MaCoy Yeakel has shined in the spotlight this season with 1,087 yards on 87 carries, which is good enough for more than 12 yards a pop, and has nine rushing touchdowns in addition to five punts returned for a touchdown.
Tate Hagen, who does the bulk of the work between the tackles, has 863 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Josef Smith is sitting at 592 yards and seven touchdowns.
“They’re a very good, physical team,” Wadle said of the Eagles. “Yeakel, he’s a little quicker than (Jordan) Weiland (one of the Eagles’ leading rushers last year). He gets on the edge and has really good feet, and then Smith, they both run very well and run that sweep well.”
Both coaches say they’re expecting about the same kind of game as last year – one dominated by defense – and know the importance of keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands.
With the Eagles coming in as an underdog of sorts, Sanger is counting on the confidence they’ve been building all season.
“I think they can realize they can get things done and that’s biggest thing,” the coach said. “They put in the effort with that and that’s a pretty good combination, and they’re also not over confident.”
For Garrigan, which brings in a perfect record, it knows postseason time is a new deal.
“The playoffs are a different animal. We know that, and the kids know that,” Wadle said. “We’ve been very fortunate the last two years to go so deep, and they know it’s not easy to do. They just want to stay focused, and this game means as much to them as it does anyone else.”