State Football: Wapsie Valley Ends BGM's Banner Season

By K.J. Pilcher, Reporter

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – A sweet season came to a bitter end.

No need for the BGM Bears to hang their heads.

The ninth-ranked Bears watched a momentuous football season come to an end with a lopsided 40-18 loss to No. 2 Wapsie Valley in the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class A state semifinals Friday at the UNI-Dome. It was BGM's first trip to the semifinals in baseball, football or boys basketball with the Bears setting a school record with wins in football.

The historic 10-3 season for the school didn't soothe the sting ending with a loss.

"It was a great season," BGM senior Nate Beck said. "We set our goals to win the state championship. It was great to be here and it was a great atmosphere but in the end we wanted to get a state championship."

Wapsie Valley (13-0) was too much to handle. The high-powered Warriors offense struck for long touchdowns in the first half and continued to score after the break when it led 19-3.

Kenny Saulsberry took the ball on the Warriors' first offensive play and dashed for a 66-yard touchdown. Only two possessions later, quarterback Mitch Boevers hit fullback Adam Boevers, who beat the linebacker in the seam down the middle, for a 69-yard touchdown, giving Wapsie Valley a 13-3 lead after a missed extra point.

Tyler Odneal provided the third huge gain, making two tacklers miss with side-step moves and then bolting to the end zone for a 66-yard touchdown with 6:22 left in the second quarter.

Three plays, 201 yards and a big deficit for BGM.

"We ran into a big-play team," Burns said. "They have a ton of great athletes."

The Bears had hoped their physical play up front would allow them to slow down the Warriors, but they weren't able to establish their strength. It also prevented BGM from producing long, methodical drives that melt the clock.

"They have so much speed," Burns said. "We couldn't match up with it. Even their kids with their hands on the ground were just too fast for us."

Burns entered the game knowing the Warriors were explosive and well balanced. BGM crowded the line of scrimmage to free their best tacklers, attempting to prevent big plays. The Bears were in position, but couldn't capitalize.

"We tried to do as good a job as we could of occuppying their linemen and keeping their kids off our linebackers so our linebackers could put some hits on their kids," Burns said. "We just weren't able to do that today."

BGM pulled within a possession at the start of the second half. The Bears successfully executed an onside kick that resulted in a Bryan Kriegel touchdown on a quarterback sneak. Kriegel's conversion pass to Kylee Gritsch, who connected on a 37-yard field goal in the first half, made it 19-11.

Wapsie answered immediately, driving 65 yards on four plays in 51 seconds. Boevers hit Saulsberry for gains of 40 and 21 yards before socring on a 2-yard run. Then Odneal took over, adding touchdown runs of 40 and 23 to seal the victory and the Warriors, looking for their fifth title in school history and first since 2007.

Odneal finished with 151 yards rushing with three TDs, giving him more than 2,040 yards and 34 TDs this season.

"There's a lot of different ways we can attack you," Odneal said. "BGM had a great defense. That first half, it was a bare-knuckle brawl.

"I'm glad we pulled it out and kept running the ball. It just worked out great for us."

The Bears added a touchdown on Jack Kline's 25-yard rush with 6:29 remaining. Kline finished with 124 yards, leading the Bears rush attack that amassed 204 yards total. Gritsch added 51 and Beck had 31. Beck and Gritsch added 35 and 36 receiving yards, respectively. Zac Freese led the Bears in receiving with 42 of the team's 146 passing yards.

Kline, who threw for 28 and had 15 receiving yards, began the season as a wide receiver, but transitioned into a tailback when he took the reins in Week 4. He is expected to carry the load next year as well.

"He was able to step in and be a work horse the way he was this year," Burns said. "For the start of next year, knowing he's going to be our guy is really exciting, thinking about what he can do."

The loss doesn't put a damper on the achievements of this season, and sights were already set on next year.

"I'm just going to focus on all the positive we've had this year," said BGM Coach Jerod Burns, who has led BGM to its only postseason appearances for each of the last five seasons. "and the fact we have basically 10 starters on both sides of the football coming back."

Wapsie Valley advances to play Hinton (10-3) in the championship game Thursday, Nov. 15 at 1:36 p.m. Hinton defeated Logan-Magnolia, 28-21, in the Western state semifinal.
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