INWOOD, Iowa | Top-ranked West Lyon spotted No. 8 Western Christian an early field goal, but after that the Wildcats locked in and punched their ticket to an Iowa Class 1A football semifinal.
West Lyon, which has held down the top spot in the Associated Press rankings for most of the season, ended Western Christian's reign as 1A state champions with a 42-3 victory at frigid Jay Rozeboom Complex here Friday night.
Monte Pottebaum scored three touchdowns for the 11-0 Wildcats, who will play in the UNI-Dome at Cedar Falls, Iowa, next Saturday.
After an early miscue that gave Western (8-3) good enough field position to drive down and take a 3-0 lead, it was all West Lyon, which took advantage of five turnovers to beat the Wolfpack for the second time this season.
“This is a great opportunity for our guys and I'm proud of their efforts,” said West Lyon Coach Jay Rozeboom, who has already accomplished so much in his 25 seasons here to have the field named after him. “It was a hard-fought game, Western's a good football team so it was nice to get the last win for our seniors on the home field.”
Pottebaum blasted into the end zone for three short touchdown runs and carried 17 times before the West Lyon starters left the game at the end of the third quarter. The 225-pound senior is the latest in a long line of bruising running backs here and has scored 17 touchdowns this season and rushed for 814 yards.
“This feels amazing and it's nice to get a win over Western Christian because they've had our number the last two years,” Pottebaum said. “I've been dreaming of going to the dome since I was a little kid so it should be fun. We just all play for each other and get the job done.”
As usual, senior quarterback Jaden Snyder performed admirably, rushing for a game-high 79 yards while passing for 107. Sophomore Logan Meyer intercepted two passes, returning them a combined 52 yards to set up a pair of touchdowns.
For the second straight week, the Wildcats got off to a somewhat rocky start, going three-and-out on their first possession. Then, with Snyder in punt formation on fourth down, he ran to his left and looked as if he would keep running but instead tried to get off an awkward kick and shanked it for zero yards.
Western took over at the Wildcat 39 and converted a fourth-and-two en route to driving to the 6-yard line before stalling. Kobi Baccam booted a 23-yard field goal at the 5:10 mark of the first quarter, giving the Wolfpack a 3-0 lead.
That, though, was about the extent of Western's offense the rest of the game. Standout running back Ben Granstra left on the second play of the third quarter because of a leg injury, but by that time West Lyon had a 28-3 cushion.
Granstra, a senior, managed only 18 yards but finished with 1,060 despite missing the first game between these two teams because of an injury. The Wolfpack were limited to 36 rushing yards and Caleb Harmsen was intercepted three times.
“We knew playing a team like West Lyon you had to execute,” Western Christian Coach Travis Kooima said. “Our effort was great tonight, the first quarter was just a testament to our guys and how hard they worked this week and the season. The execution just wasn't there on offense.”
West Lyon answered the field goal with an eight-play, 75-yard march, taking the lead for good on a 1-yard Pottebaum plunge with 2:31 left in the first quarter.
Jaden Snyder's interception and ensuing 37-yard screen pass to Mitchell Rentschler set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Dylan Snyders, making it 14-3. The Wildcats scored twice more before halftime on runs of 4 and 6 yards by Pottebaum, the second with eight seconds remaining.
Meyer's second interception and a 30-yard return on the first series of the second half led to the first of two Rentschler scoring runs. When Rentschler raced 35 yards to paydirt with 5:42 left in the third quarter, it kicked in a continuous clock.
The loss ended a glorious three-year run for Western, which was state runner-up two years ago and claimed the 1A title last season with a win over perennial powerhouse Iowa City Regina.
“Three years ago on this field will had a challenge to this group when these guys were sophomores,” Kooima said. “We had some stuff in our foundation that we could build on and we had a great three-year run. This senior group has been a part of something super special and they've really set the tone for what Wolfpack football is and the tradition that we've started.”
For West Lyon, it's another in a long list of trips to the UNI-Dome, where it has captured four state titles under Rozeboom. The Wildcats play second-ranked Van Meter at 1 p.m. Saturday in a semifinal.
“It will be a little bit warmer there but it seems pretty warm here right now,” joked Rozeboom. “It's been a couple years since we've been there so it will be a great opportunity to get back. After the first series tonight we tightened our belts and really played well.”
West Lyon finished with 238 yards on the ground and once again its starters got plenty of rest and should be fresh for the upcoming tilt in the UNI-Dome.