CEDAR FALLS, Iowa | Dike-New Hartford was rolling along just like it has during its nine-game winning streak. Then the Wolverines fumbled and they were never the same.
Second-ranked Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley scored on that turnover and forced three more fumbles and picked off three passes as the Nighthawks downed Dike-New Hartford 49-14 in a Class 2A semifinal at the UNI-Dome on Saturday.
"What we have done consistently is we have taken this group of kids and the preparation they have done going into each game is probably -- I hate to say it -- the best," said Nighthawks Coach Cory Brandt, who is in his 19th year leading the team. "In that preparation we talk about turnovers, talk about creating it, but being in the right spot and getting bodies to the ball has made things happen."
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (11-1) will play for the championship for just the second time after finishing as the runner-up in 2009.
"This is really a crazy, it is a surreal feeling, I don't think it has sunken in yet," BH/RV senior receiver Shane Solberg said. "I just can't wait to have one more week with my brothers."
No. 8 D-NH (8-3), which had won nine straight games since it dropped two to open the season, scored the first two times it had the ball behind the rushing of senior Trent Johnson. Johnson raced 35 yards to put his team up 7-0 after their first possession.
The Nighthawks responded as quarterback Brett Moser found Solberg for 14 yards and Jacob Schafer for 21 yards to help set up Schafer's 2-yard run into the end zone to tie the game.
Then it was Johnson's turn again as he found a hole and raced 20 yards to the end zone to make it 14-7.
The Wolverines looked to be back in business when Ben Freese picked off Moser on the next series. A steady diet of Johnson, the state's all-time leading rusher, got the ball down to the 2 before quarterback Cade Fuller fumbled the snap away and Austin Rozeboom recovered.
"Unbelievable and then the fumble and then to go score, the defense set up offense," said Brandt. "I can't even tell you how great our defense played today. Made play after play after play. Came up big after we stumbled."
"That was the turning point of the game," D-NH Coach Don Betts said. "We stick it in there and go up two touchdowns and it is a completely different ball game. You get to this level and you can't have turnovers.
"We hadn't been a turnover team all year long and today they popped up all over the place."
It took BH/RV seven plays to cover 96 yards to change the game with the final two going to Solberg on passes that covered 53 yards, including the 39-yard TD strike from Moser.
"We always seem to have big second quarters and with that turnover our defense finally settles in," Moser said. "We had a nice drive there for the score, it was huge."
The Nighthawks took the lead for good on Moser's 11-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left in the first half. When the Wolverines fumbled away the ball on the ensuing kickoff, BH/RV took a 28-14 lead into the locker room as Moser found Kobe Lutjens on a 4-yard pass.
"Everyone has a job and everyone did a job," Moser said.
The third quarter was herky-jerky for both teams as it began with a D-NH punt followed by Moser being intercepted only to have the Wolverines fumble it back to the Nighthawks on the next play. Moser would score a touchdown on the next snap on an 8-yard run to make it 35-14.
BH/RV's Kendrick Van Kekerix picked off another pass on the next series but was injured on the return. He was on the turf for several minutes before being taken off on a stretcher with his teammates surrounding him.
What followed was two Nighthawk fumbles and another Wolverine fumble.
Solberg put a cap on his impressive performance by intercepting a pass and racing 81 yards for the touchdown.
"It felt pretty good especially with Kendrick going out," Solberg said. "It was pretty cool."
Schafer had the final score of the game on a 28-yard run to get the running clock going.
Johnson ran for 190 yards, but the Nighthawk defense slowed him considerably after his fast start. Solberg showed what a complete player he is with his 81 yards rushing, 81 receiving, the interception return and several long kick returns as well.
"I am very blessed with guys that are athletically good and humble," Brandt said. "Shane is a very, very special young man ... he is a playmaker and he lives for the big game. He says 'come on boys and let's go.'"
The Nighthawks will face the winner of Mount Vernon and Union for the 2A title at 2:06 p.m. on Friday.