CEDAR FALLS – Seven and 13 are supposed to be lucky numbers.
But neither were very lucky for Harlan Thursday night in its Iowa Class 3A state championship game against North Scott.
Seven turnovers – six of them off the interception – doomed the second-ranked Cyclones in the Lancers’ convincing 30-6 victory at the UNI-Dome.
The Lancers earned the right. After being denied a trip to the UNI-Dome four times, three of them between 2017-2019 – twice to Bettendorf, when the Lancers were in Class 4A, and later to Western Dubuque after moving down to Class 3A – coach Kevin Tippet’s team proved they knew how to win in the clutch.
While their three previous post-season wins this year came down to the last play, it was a strong second half that turned what was shaping up to be another edge-of-your-seat nailbiter into a rout.
Oliver Hughes came out of nowhere to intercept Cyclone quarterback Teagon Kasperberger’s pass and raced 61 yards for the pick-six to break a 6-6 deadlock midway through the third period. Then after a three-and-out, Lancer quarterback Carter Markham tossed the pass to Hughes, who muscled into the end zone to make it 20-6.
Hughes opened the fourth quarter with a 40-yard field goal to extend the lead to 23-6, and Jakob Nelson’s 38-yard touchdown reception about 90 seconds later sealed the outcome.
Connor Corson, who had plenty of big plays during the post-season, did his part as well in the title game, intercepting four Kasperberger passes, three in a four-minute stretch in the second half.
Harlan had been good at gaining momentum with big plays right before halftime. Kasperberger looked like he’d spark his team again when, with one second left before half, he connected with Aiden Hall, who sprinted 58 yards down the sideline to tie the game at 6-apiece.
However, the Lancers were ready and on the Cyclones’ first drive of the second half, Hughes’ interception-for-a-touchdown began changing the momentum.
The Lancers, finishing 9-1 on the year, made the most of their maiden voyage the UNI-Dome. Harlan, in the state title game for the 20th time and vying for a 13th state championship but first since 2009 (when this year’s varsity players was in first grade or younger), finished 11-1.
EIGHT-MAN – Remsen St. Mary’s 48, Fremont-Mills 0:
- This one was all Hawks in a battle of teams that eliminated the final two News-Telegraph area teams in the quarterfinals.
RSM’s Blaine Harpenau was the star of the first half, with touchdown runs of 4 and 1 run each in the first quarter, and passes to Ryan Willman for 5 yards and Damen Brownmiller for 54 yards to build a 27-0 halftime lead.
Levi Waldenschmitt added a 2-yard run to put the game on continuous clock early in the third period, and Harpenau’s second scoring connection to Brownmiller and Brenden Fisch’s 25-yard touchdown run early in the fourth period were icing on the cake.
Fremont-Mills’ running back Seth Malcom came into the game averaging 160 rushing yards per contest, but was held to 57 yards. The Knights were limited to 119 total yards. The Knights were 0-for-4 on fourth-down conversions and just 5-of-12 on third-down chances, while the Hawks were 3-of-6 on third down and 5-for-5 inside the red zone.
Third-ranked RSM, who beat Audubon in the quarterfinals, ended an unbeaten season 12-0. Fremont-Mills, ranked sixth in the final Associated Press poll of the year and who handed CAM a quarterfinal loss, was 8-2.
CLASS A – Iowa City Regina 52, Grundy Center 28:
- Harlan’s 12 state championships lead the state, while West Des Moines Dowling has 10.
Iowa City Regina, the third-ranked team in Class A, jumped to third on the list with eight on the strength of a second-quarter outburst, with three Theo Kolie touchdowns in a span of less than eight minutes to break open a 7-7 deadlock.
Kolie had a pair of 1-yard runs and added a 5-yard run with 47 seconds before halftime to turn the game into a rout. He ended with 134 yards on the afternoon and had two more touchdowns, both from inside the Spartans’ 5.
Ashton Cook, son of coach and former University of Iowa great Marv Cook, was 17-for-24 for 325 yards passing and two touchdowns, those to Carson Jensen for 12 yards and Alex Wick for 88 yards. The Regals ended with 534 total yards on the day.
Cole Lehr’s 2-yard touchdown reception for Grundy Center – who came into the game with the No. 1 ranking – tied the game at 7-apiece late in the first quarter before Wick’s 22-yard field goal broke the tie and began changing the tide in favor of the Regals. Logan Knaack had 262 passing yards on 13-of-27 passing with two touchdowns.
Both teams finished the season 11-1.