HULL, Iowa | J.T. Van't Hul didn't seem to feel the pressure of replacing a state champion quarterback.
The Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley junior threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as the Nighthawks rolled past Western Christian 49-14 on Friday night at Hesla Field.
"It means a lot because Western is a big rival of ours so it means a lot to come out and beat them like we did," Van't Hul said. "It was good but it's more of a team aspect."
In a battle of defending state champions -- Western Christian ended Iowa City Regina's run of six straight titles with a 47-34 victory in the 1A final while BH/RV downed Union LaPore City 41-22 for the Class 2A title -- it was the Nighthawks and their defense that proved to be too much.
The BH/RV defense pitched a shutout in the final three quarters and did not allow the Wolfpack to complete a pass in the second half.
"We just had to communicate with our line and get the nerves out I guess," BHRV senior linebacker Austin Rozeboom said. "Coach always likes to send me on a lot of blitzes. It frees me up and go kill the quarterback he likes to call it."
Rozeboom and the rest of the defense did that plenty as they forced a pair of fumbles and picked off a pass.
The Wolfpack took a brief 14-7 lead in the first quarter when quarterback Carter Broek found a streaking Travis Solsma for a 58-yard scoring strike. Broek delivered the ball just as he was being hit by Rozeboom.
The lead would be short-lived as the Nighthawks' Brayton Van Kekerix ripped off a 36-yard run before Van't Hul went 29 yards up the middle for the tying score with 24 seconds to go in the quarter.
"That is huge and that is exactly how you want to respond when someone goes and smacks you in the mouth," BH/RV Coach Cory Brandt said. "I thought we responded well."
BH/RV would take control in the second quarter when Western Christian running back Cole Habben was hit and fumbled the ball which was recovered by Brandon Roemeling. In a game of long touchdown scores for the Nighthawks, Van't Hul found Cade Moser on a 69-yard TD score on the first play after the turnover to put BH/RV up 21-14.
The two-touchdown lead for the Nighthawks came when Van't Hul found Jaden Den Boer on a 41-yard strike, again beating the defense deep.
"Coaches like if they man up they like to go deep," Van't Hul said. "Single them up on the backside and it just worked out well."
The momentum continued to go with BH/RV to start the third quarter as the defense forced a fumble on the second play of the half and saw it recovered by Roemeling, his second fumble recovery of the game.
The Nighthawks had to go just 22 yards for the score as Elliot Van Kekerix covered the final two yards to increase the lead to 35-14.
Van't Hul was 12 of 18 for 203 yards four touchdowns and one interception while the running game churned out 201 yards.
"J.T. had a great year of preparation under Brett (Moser) last year and J.T. brings a different skill set along with his feet as well," Brandt said. "I am really impressed with his efforts and what he has learned."
Western Christian running back Ben Granstra, who ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the Wolfpack's 32-13 loss in last season's opener with BH/RV, was held to just 41 yards on the ground.
Both teams started fast as the Nighthawks took the opening kick and matched for a touchdown on a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 26-yard pass from Van't Hul to Den Boer.
"I was just really thankful our receivers came through the way they did," Brandt said. "We had certain plays and they got after it and executed and J.T. really put it on them."
Western Christian wasted little time with the answer as Broek found Solsma with a 13-yard pass completion on fourth-and-6 to set up goal to go on the 5-yard line. Two runs later and Granstra was in from two yards out to tie the game.
The Nighthawks continue their challenging non-district schedule Friday when they travel to Inwood to face West Lyon. Western Christian hosts Akron-Westfield.