CEDAR FALLS, Iowa | After last year’s Class 1A championship game loss to Iowa City Regina, Western Christian Coach Travis Kooima talked about what could have been with just two more minutes.
His team had taken Iowa’s greatest dynasty of the prep football playoff era down to the wire before falling 35-28, but the leader of the Wolfpack didn’t dwell too long on the time his team didn’t have, instead he focused on the time it did.
“Right away you think about it and do the what ifs as coaches and players … but with the busy basketball season I have it was just more motivation,” he said. “We scratched the surface on how good we can be, let’s see if we can continue to get better and that was what the offseason was focused on.
“We had to make sure we continue to get better so when next season rolls around we are ready to put the best product on the field and that is what I think we did this year.”
The Wolfpack has reeled off 11 straight wins since an opening week loss to fellow state finalist Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley to earn the chance to play for the state title for the second consecutive year Friday at 11:06 a.m. at the UNI-Dome.
The fifth-ranked Wolfpack has had a very familiar postseason run to last year when the 13-year-old program made its first trip to the dome. Western Christian began this postseason by winning district rematches with West Lyon and Hinton before once again taking down Van Meter in the semifinals.
Now it is a rematch with top-ranked Regina (11-1), a 35-28 winner over the Wolfpack in the 2015 title game.
“It has been a very similar postseason to last year,” Kooima said. “Our guys kind of fought through our tough district, fought through a tough playoff rematch with our district foes, and now we run into the same two teams at the dome.
“Our guys have done a great job of focusing on the task at hand. Our priority this week is to be the best team we can be on Friday.”
Kooima said one of the biggest areas he knows his team will need to be competitive in is the trenches where the Regals ran for 380 yards last year. The coach feels district foes like West Lyon and Hinton have helped the Wolfpack prepare for Regina, whose lone loss this season came to 3A Cedar Rapids Xavier.
“Regina is a very fundamentally sound team up front both offensively and defensive line wise,” he said. “When those opportunities to make a big play come, we have to make it.”
Regina, six-time defending champions with the last four coming in Class 1A, features a plethora of hard-charging running backs led by Isaac Vollstedt with 925 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ran for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Wolfpack in the last meeting. Quarterback Michael Conlon has thrown for 1,545 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"You know they are going to come at you downhill, you know their running backs are going to be hard to tackle and defensively you know they are just going to fly to the football and play good, sound defense," Kooima said. "You know the speed of the game is going to match. Some of the teams we have played this year we had better speed, they weren't able to match our speed but this one will be a wash in that department."
Kooima is preparing his team for the run dominant team it saw last year and an offense that spread out its semifinal opponent, Denver, more last week.
Western Christian quarterback Tyson Kooima, the coach's brother, is coming off a four- touchdown game against Van Meter and found his rhythm against the Regals late in last year's contest. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 163 yards over the final 17 minutes.
Running back Ben Gransta ran for 202 yards against Van Meter and gives the team a big weapon in the backfield when he runs with determination, while wide receiver Ben Gesink had a pair of touchdown receptions last Saturday.
Western Christian is taking this second chance to get that first title head on and is not concerned with who is standing in its way.
"Our guys understand that in high school football anything can happen on any given game day," Travis Kooima said. "No one is an underdog unless they want to be, unless they play that tune and we haven't done that all year."