DIKE – The Dike-New Hartford football team entered the playoffs with sky-high expectations.
The Wolverines were ranked No. 1 in the state after a superb and dominating regular season.
But Dike-New Hartford’s magical 2019 season ended in stunning and disappointing fashion in the Class 1A quarterfinals Friday night.
Standout quarterback Drew Sonnenberg was injured early in the game and the Wolverines couldn’t recover in a 36-14 home loss to No. 5 West Lyon
Dike-New Hartford, second in the state in 2018, finishes its season with a 10-1 record.
West Lyon (10-1) advances to next Saturday’s semifinals at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Wildcat running back Logan Meyer broke loose on a 68-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play from scrimmage. He rushed for 218 yards and three scores.
West Lyon quarterback Jalyn Gramstad rushed for one score and passed for another. He ran for 101 yards and passed for 44.
“Dike-New Hartford has a great football team and we have a ton of respect for them,” Gramstad said. “It was unfortunate that they lost their quarterback – you never want to see that. Even after Sonnenberg went out, they kept battling us. They were a tough opponent.”
The two powerhouse programs have storied playoff histories. West Lyon beat Dike-New Hartford in the 1998 and 2010 state championship game.
The Wolverines trailed 14-7 early in the second quarter when Sonnenberg was injured while trying to make a tackle from his safety position.
Sonnenberg was down on the field for several minutes before being helped to the sidelines. He did not return.
“Drew went in to make a tackle and his head hit the ground pretty hard,” D-NH coach Don Betts said. “Drew was one of our leaders and it obviously was difficult for us when he had to leave the game.”
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Sonnenberg was 3-of-6 for 23 yards, leading his team on a 64-yard scoring drive on their first possession.
Junior Nathan Moore, who had just 11 pass attempts on the season, stepped in at quarterback for the Wolverines. Moore took over in a difficult spot and he drove his team into the red zone three times. But Dike-New Hartford scored on just one of those drives.
Moore completed 7-of-17 attempts while passing for 74 yards.
Dike-New Hartford trailed 23-7 at the half, but actually had a pair of opportunities in the third quarter.
The Wolverines drove into the red zone twice, including reaching the West Lyon 3-yard line, but came away with no points each time.
“There is no quit in these kids,” Betts said. “At halftime, we knew we just had to come out and clean some things up. They battled to the end – that’s indicative of the character of these kids.”
Playoff veteran West Lyon then put the game away with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Friday’s game marked the end of the careers for a number of standout Dike-NH seniors, including Sonnenberg, running back Cade Bennett and wide receiver Parker Kiewiet.
“These seniors are a special group of kids,” Betts said. “They worked really hard and they were all about the team for four years. They did things the right way. I’m so proud of these kids for what they accomplished and for how hard they fought and battled. I couldn’t be prouder of these young men.”
The hard-charging Bennett ran for 170 yards on 30 tough carries Friday.
“It was really tough for us when Drew went down – we just tried to keep our heads up and keep battling,” Bennett said. “We kept fighting and never gave up. That’s the kind of team we have.”
Dike-New Hartford’s seniors went 22-2 their final two seasons.
“There is such a great group of guys on this team – I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else,” Bennett said. “These guys are like my brothers and I loved being their teammates. We accomplished a lot and had so many positive memories from what we did here.”
An emotional Betts shared a hug with a teary-eyed Sonnenberg near midfield after the game.
“I just told him I loved him,” Betts said.