ALGONA | The wind carried a glistening frozen mist over a football field, where beneath the stadium lights, flashes of red and white raised their arms in celebration.
West Hancock sophomore Tate Hagen remained kneeling on the ground behind the rest. He pointed at the sky, then left the scene of the final play to shake the hands of the Bishop Garrigan team.
It was the ultimate rematch. Last year, Bishop Garrigan defeated West Hancock 12-8 to move on to the state semifinals. This year, the Eagles (6-3) opened up the Class A postseason against the undefeated Golden Bears, and they won it 26-12.
“I just felt we were good enough all the time,” head coach Bob Sanger said.
Despite the records, the teams proved to be evenly matched for most of the first half. Neither team could create a drive.
“We started pretty slow. The second half we started getting all our blocks and hitting them pretty hard,” Sanger said. “I’d like to get a little quicker start than that.”
Garrigan’s run game wasn’t working, totaling a net 41 yards total rushing, so quarterback Brad Capesius started taking his shots. One of them worked when he found T.J. Schnurr for a 45-yard connection downfield. A roughing the passer call added 15 yards, putting the Golden Bears 11 yards from the goal line.
Capesius rolled out to the left, but the coverage was packed, so he turned to his right and found Ben Degen wide open in the end zone for a touchdown to take a 6-0 lead.
After a missed PAT, the Eagles got the ball back with under a minute left. Senior Macoy Yeakel finally broke through the line and sprinted down the sideline for 47 yards before getting tackled at the 1. Hagen would score the next play and the two-point conversion was no good, tying the game 6-6.
Early in the third quarter, Hagen had his turn at a breakout run, storming up the middle for a 60-yard touchdown. A failed two-point conversion made it 12-6, and the Eagles went back to work on defense.
Yeakel broke free on the Eagles’ next drive, running 63 yards down the sideline for a touchdown to widen the gap to 18-6. Hagen complemented that with the only two-point conversion of the night to make it 20-6.
But the Golden Bears would find success on another passing play – a connection by Capesius to John Meis for a 38-yard touchdown reception narrowed the deficit 20-12.
But the Eagles would continue to play aggressive defense, making a key stop in the red zone to prevent the Golden Bears from tying the game early in the fourth quarter.
“It was a defensive kind of night and they rose to the occasion,” Sanger said. “That was great because it gives us time for our offense to get on track and go so our defense is solid.”
Behind senior Josef Smith and Yeakel, the Eagles drove downfield once again to put the finishing touches on the score. Hagen carried the ball in for his third touchdown of the night to move the lead to 26-12. Hagen finished with 230 yards rushing while Yeakel finished with 114 yards.
West Hancock will enjoy this feeling tonight, but looking forward, there’s still room to grow.
“I’d like to be able to throw the ball around a little more, but this wasn’t the kind of night to work on that,” Sanger said.