CEDAR FALLS, Iowa | West Lyon was doing what it wanted to do until turnovers ruined its plans.
Using long, time-consuming drives all game, three big plays by Van Meter senior Anthony Lowman swung the game in favor of second-ranked Van Meter. Lowman returned a fumble 76 yards in the third quarter, hauled in an 83-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter and threw a 75-yard touchdown pass in the second-ranked Bulldogs' 35-21 Class 1A state semifinal victory over top-ranked West Lyon Saturday.
This was the third straight trip to the semifinals and fourth in five years for these Bulldogs (12-0) and they made it count with an impressive second half. They will face Iowa City Regina (10-2) who defeated Pella Christian 37-35 in the first semifinal for the championship.
"Just getting this one was the best feeling obviously senior year," said Lowman who had six catches for 130 yards. "Coming up short sophomore and junior year it just left a bitter taste and getting this one my senior year just feels amazing."
West Lyon looked like it was marching its way to a go-ahead score to open the third quarter with the same formula it used all game. Time consuming drives leaning heavily on the run. The Wildcats marched from their own 28 to the Van Meter 17. However, when quarterback Jaden Snyder tried to pitch the ball late to Dylan Snyders he could not handle the ball and fumbled it.
Lowman scooped up the ball for the Bulldogs and raced 76 yards for the score to put Van Meter up 21-14 with 5:33 to go in the third.
"They were a good team, best team we have seen all year," Snyder said. "Coming out they just kind of hit us in the mouth and we just didn't know how to react, but huge credit to them and I hope they go win one."
West Lyon (11-1) responded with its own quick score as Snyder and Micah Meyer connected three times on the drive for 52 yards including the 18-yard strike to tie the game.
From there Lowman did the damage.
Van Meter picked off Snyder and on the third play of the ensuing drive quarterback Blake Fryar hit Lowman for an 83-yard touchdown go give the Bulldogs a lead they would never relinquish. After a Wildcat punt, Lowman took a handoff, made a move like he was going to run, and pulled back before firing a 75-yard strike to Jack Trudo.
"I just get the ball on a sweep and pretend like I am running and hopefully that corner sees that I am running and Jack just flies by," Lowman said of the pass play. "Throw a good ball to him and he scores."
The Wildcats were looking for their fifth title under coach Jay Rozeboom in their 15th trip to the state semifinals.
"It is tough on my guys. We played our heart out and tough result," said Snyder, who was 12 of 21 throwing the ball for 164 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The first half featured just five drives total with each team going on time-consuming efforts to put points on the board.
The Bulldogs opened the game with a masterful 15-play drive that covered 80 yards and took 6 minutes, 6 seconds off the clock. Van Meter converted a pair of fourth downs on the drive including a 21-yard touchdown pass from Fryar to Lowman on fourth-and-3 to take the early lead.
The Wildcats responded with an 11-play drive that took 5:21 and covered 71 yards. West Lyon drove down to the 27-yard line when it faced fourth-and-7 and Snyder connected with Dylan Snyders for the score knotting the game at 7-all.
"I thought we were doing a good job but they were the best defense we saw all year," Pottebaum said. "We were all doing our job we just couldn't get the push we usually do and that is just credit to them."
After Van Meter was forced to punt, West Lyon went on another monster 19-play, 84-yard drive that ate up 9:04 off the clock. The final 13 plays were all runs capped by Monte Pottebaum's 1-yard plunge into the end zone.
The Bulldogs showed they could score in a hurry as they answered with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Fryar to Sam Thompson with one second left in the half to tie it at 14-14. Fryar was an impressive 11 of 13 throwing the ball for 118 yards in the opening half.
"We were moving the ball and a couple possessions we were able to stop them, but in the end it didn't go our way," Snyder said.
Fryar made the Wildcats pay with the speed his team had at receiver finishing 16 of 18 for 223 yards while Carson Rhodes ran for 91 yards.
Van Meter had lost the last two semifinal appearances to Western Christian, which went on to win the state title last year over Regina.