CEDAR FALLS, Iowa | Tyson and Travis Kooima raced to each other and embraced not as quarterback and coach but as brothers. The large contingent of Sioux County in the stands roared its approval.
Making big plays when it needed it the most Western Christian ended six-time defending champion Iowa City Regina's reign 47-34 in the Class 1A state championship game Friday at the UNI-Dome.
"We just started crying, it was so great," said Tyson of the emotion with his brother and head coach after the victory. "The feeling of winning a state championship and having two of your brothers as coaches is just an awesome feeling."
"That is going to be in my head a long time, that is going to be a special moment," said Travis Kooima as he fought back some tears. "To be able to coach him for four years and to have it end, not only playing in a state championship game, but figuring out a way to win the thing is just awesome."
In a game that saw four 1A title game records set, Western Christian made enough big plays in the second half to secure the school's first title for a program that is only in its 13th year.
"The guys bought into the outcome was already determined and we just have to go out and play," Travis Kooima said. "That second half we just kept plugging away and making big plays when we needed to."
The game was back and forth during the first half as the Wolfpack took the lead for good with its opening drive of the second half. Western Christian used 4 minutes, 25 seconds relying mainly on the legs of running back Ben Granstra to march 72 yards in 10 plays. Granstra capped it with a 4-yard bolt into the end zone.
Granstra finished with 180 yards on 39 carries and three touchdowns. It was a far cry from the 40 yards he was held to last season when the two teams met in the title game with Regina winning 35-28.
"When our line gets a push and a crease and if they are working that hard, I should reward them and get the positive yards they got for me," Granstra said.
The two teams would then trade turnovers on the next four possessions with each losing a fumble and throwing an interception.
After shutting the Regals out in the third quarter, the Wolfpack began the fourth by stuffing Regina's Isaac Vollstedt on fourth-and-2. Vollstedt ran for a game-high 189 yards and three touchdowns, but was held to 45 in the second half.
Tyson Kooima made the Regals pay as he hit Ben Gesink on a 23-yard scoring strike to make it 41-27.
Regina responded with a Vollstedt 2-yard touchdown to make it a one score game again at 41-34, but it was Granstra, named the game's MVP, who put it away. He ran the ball on eight straight plays, picking up two third down conversions, before Tyson Kooima hit Gesink for 25 yards on fourth-and-7. Granstra went in from the 2 to end any doubt.
"All year we have been doing it so it is not like it is something new," said Gesink, who picked off Regina QB Michael Conlon on his final pass attempt before the Wolfpack went into victory formation. "We have been practicing for this game all year. Every game we throw it up over the top."
Tyson Kooima finished the game going 17 of 30 for 209 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Gesink had six catches for 110 yards and Jesse Jansma set a new championship game record with eight receptions despite getting injured in the third quarter and not returning.
Regina had 424 yards of offense but also threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles and was whistled 10 times for 61 penalty yards in the game.
"Their quarterback is a great trigger guy, their skill guys made play after play after play," said Regina Coach Marv Cook. "The good teams are good enough to overcome it and it is hard to overcome it against a great team. We made some mistakes we don't normally make and that is football."
Regina's first score of the game was set up off a turnover as the Wolfpack was driving and had the ball on the Regals' 26 when a Tyson Kooima pass went off the hands of Micah VanOtterloo and was picked off by Jack Jensen. Jensen returned the ball to the 15 and two plays later Vollstedt raced into the end zone from 13 yards out.
Jensen picked off Tyson Kooima on the Wolfpack's next possession, this one coming in the end zone, but Gesink would come up with the first of several momentum-turning plays in the first half. Colyn Oostenink tackled Conlon forcing a fumble and Gesink scooped up the ball, raced 42 yards and tied the game at 7-7.
"That was big because they had some momentum going and then Colyn got their quarterback and stripped the ball," Gesink said. "The ball was just laying there and I picked it up and ran it in. I was just hoping I would not get caught."
The Wolfpack faithful got really loud as Conlon was intercepted by Jansma on the first play of the next drive. Jansma took it back to the nine and Tyson Kooima scored on a 5-yard run to give Western Christian a 13-7 lead.
It was Regina's own recovered fumbles that allowed the Regals to regain the lead. On the kickoff after Kooima's touchdown, Regina fumbled only to recover and then retained the ball when it hit the turf on a quarterback-running back exchange on the first play of the drive. Conlon would go on to score on an 18-yard run to put the Regals up 14-13.
It was yet another response from a body blow by the challenger on the next drive as Granstra's running helped set up a Kooima to Jansma 11-yard score to make it 19-14 Wolfpack.
Regina showed why it owned an 80-game winning streak against 1A foes coming in as it scored touchdowns on the next two possessions to take a 27-19 lead with 1:37 left in the half.
It proved to be more than enough time as Tyson Kooima connected on passes of 26, 8, 9 and 12 yards to get down to the 3. Granstra then broke three tackles in an impressive show of determination to get into the end zone and tie the game at 27-all at the break.
"We always tell ourselves next play and we kept pounding it, pounding it," Tyson Kooima said.