Bears Roar Back Again, Topple North Cedar, 37-12

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By Tracy McCullough

Second verse, much like the first.

Once again, West Branch spotted North Cedar a double-digit lead. And once again, the Bears roared back.

Fourth-ranked West Branch rushed for 261 second-half yards, scored the final 37 points and blasted the No. 9 Knights, 37-12, in a Class 1A football quarterfinal last night at Doug Jackson Field.

“We use three or four backs quite a bit, so we’re able to have someone fresh all the time,” said Bears Coach Butch Pedersen. “I feel we’re as well conditioned as anybody in the state.”

West Branch (11-0) will face Dike-New Hartford (10-2) in a semifinal Saturday at the UNI-Dome. DNH knocked off No. 5 Woodward-Granger, 34-27, Monday.

The semifinal round was the stumbling block last year for the Bears.

“If we play West Branch football, with heart, I think we can make a great run,” said Cade Jones, who led the West Branch ground attack with 160 yards — 133 on nine second-half carries.

North Cedar ended the best year in school history at 10-2.

“We knew we had good athletes, and we knew we could put some things together,” said Knights Coach Clay Harrold. “The guys worked hard every day.”

Both of the Knights’ losses came to West Branch. And both games were strikingly similar.

In Week 9, West Branch rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to win 28-21. Monday, the road back wasn’t quite as steep.

North Cedar led 12-0 on the strength of a touchdown and two field goals by Tyler Canfield, with the assistance of two interceptions by Donny Wachendorf.

The Bears got a 24-yard field goal by Brandon Young with 0:02 left in the half to get within 12-3. Then came another second-half onslaught.

West Branch scored five touchdowns on its first five possessions of the half.

Jones started it with a 43-yard run, then Eli Elliott’s 2-yard run with 3:58 left in the third quarter gave the Bears the lead for good at 16-12.

“Everyone was making plays. Everyone was working hard,” said West Branch’s Logan Murry.

Elliott scored again on a 5-yard run with 11:16 remaining to give the Bears some cushion at 23-12. Young (2-yard run) and Bo Bower (8-yard run) rounded out the scoring.

In the two games, North Cedar won the first halves by a combined 33-3, West Branch the second halves by a decisive 62-0.

“Every play, they rotate three or four new bodies in at you,” Harrold said. “And their game plan is second to none.”

Four West Branch backs ran for 50 yards or more. The Bears finished with 441 yards, 358 on the ground.

North Cedar’s Jordan Hay passed for 202 yards. The Knights turned the ball over four times.
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