CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – It’s champion versus champion.
The Class 1A state semifinals has a twist not seen often as defending Class A state football champion West Sioux, which captured it first title in Class A a year ago with a 35-14 win over Hudson, is facing last year’s Class 1A champion Van Meter Saturday in the UNI-Dome.
“It is going to be a heck of a show and what a great billing for the state to face two defending (champs),” West Sioux coach Ryan Schwiesow said. “That doesn’t happen very often where you get two teams that are defending state champions that get to play each other.
“It is a unique situation that I am sure there will be some hype around and deservedly so.”
The Falcons faced questions entering the new season as they moved up a class and began their campaign with a 42-16 loss to Class 2A state semifinalist Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley. However, 10 straight wins have followed and West Sioux looks much more the powerhouse it did last season than the new kid trying to get used to the surroundings.
“It is a testament mostly to the kids because they didn’t rest on their laurels,” Schwiesow said. ”They were the ones in the weight room because I can get up and open up the weight room, but we still have to have the kids show up and do those things in the summer and do those offseason things.
“The kids decided they were the ones that wanted to be back in the Dome. The coaches can say what they want but it is the kids that want to work for it and do things.”
The fifth-ranked Falcons lead Class 1A with 3,078 passing yards and 42 touchdowns behind the strong arm of junior quarterback Hunter Dekkers. The West Sioux signal-caller has taken advantage of his team’s spread offense to sit second in the state with 3,020 of those passing yards in an impressive follow-up season to his sophomore campaign
The Falcons may have lost 2,000-yard rusher Jake Lynott off of last year’s team, but it is brother, Kade, who has helped soften the blow considerably. He leads the team with 902 yards rushing and 1,314 receiving.
“We knew once we were going to put him as a feature sort of kid and our feature back and get him in space to do all those things you try to do with your feature athletes that he was going to perform and perform well,” Schwiesow said. “What people don’t understand is he is having a year like Jake did last year and he is only a junior. Kade has worked his tail off and is Jake 2.0. He has waited his turn to step up and he has taken full advantage of it.”
He is far from the only weapon as Chase Koopmans has 52 receptions for 760 yards and is a tone-setter for the team.
“Chase is a natural-born leader … and the thing about Chase is he is just so darn physical,” Schwiesow said. “He will keep hitting you and when he tackles you it is with bad intentions. There is no doubt about it. I have never coached a kid that is as persistent or physically tough as he is.”
The West Sioux (10-1) defense will have to find a way to slow the top rushing attack in Class 1A as Van Meter has racked up 3,465 yards and 42 touchdowns on the ground.
Van Meter (11-0) is making its 11th straight trip to the playoffs and it was impressive last season taking out West Lyon and Iowa City Regina to claim its first title. The Bulldogs have not lost a game since a 2016 state semifinal to eventual champion Western Christian 35-14.
Van Meter running back Ian Abrahamson leads the way with 1,890 yards on the ground, but quarterback Anthony Potthoff is equally dangerous with his legs or arm. He has run for 1,024 yards and thrown for 1,069 and a combined 32 touchdowns.
“They are the same two-headed monster we are,” Schwiesow said. “They spread it out and they run it or they you spread you out and they throw it. They do those sort of things that create those running lanes for those running game by spreading you out.”
Spencer Lamb paces the defense with five interceptions.
The Falcons made quick work of most of their regular season opponents, but it was their battle with previously unbeaten South Central Calhoun in the quarterfinals that showed Schwiesow what he needed to see.
“That was probably the most adversity we had and honestly the toughest team we have played in two years,” said Schwiesow of his team’s 34-20 win. “We started out a little sloppy in the first quarter and had some turnovers, and our defense stepped up and made great plays.
“What I learned about our kids is when their backs are to the wall they are not going to lay down they are going to fight.”