Rebels succumb to Bedford comeback
Bulldogs beat G-R in 8-Man semis, 31-30
CEDAR FALLS – Jeremy Nally doesn’t think Bedford could stop Gladbrook-Reinbeck all that often last Wednesday afternoon.
Instead, the Bedford head coach said the Bulldogs took advantage of self-inflicted errors by the Rebels, opening the door for Bedford’s fourth-quarter comeback capped by a game-winning field goal to stun the Rebels, 31-30, in an 8-Player state football semifinal at the UNI-Dome on Nov. 8.
Kase Coleman’s 24-yard field goal was not just Bedford’s first field-goal attempt of the season, but the Bulldogs’ first attempt since 2015, according to stats collected by Iowa Bound.
The kick sailed through the uprights with 13 seconds left in the game, and the Rebels’ next play from scrimmage at their own 15-yard line after a touchback on the ensuing kickoff was a Bedford interception that brought a sour end to G-R’s best season of 8-Man football to date, ending the season at 10-2.
“They took advantage of some big plays, but we made some big plays too,” G-R head coach John Olson said. “It’s football. Both teams are trying to win the game and it’s hard to win a football game, it’s really hard.”
Isaac Clark ran in a 1-yard score three seconds into the fourth quarter to push G-R’s lead to 30-16 after a two-point pass from Clark to Austin Vaverka.
The Bulldogs only needed three minutes to respond with a Conner Nally touchdown run, but the two-point play was stopped to keep the margin at eight points.
However, Bedford’s Silas Walston forced a Clark fumble on the first play of the next possession, the Bulldogs recovering it deep in G-R territory and scoring again moments later — the two-point play to tie it was unsuccessful, but the pressure was on the Rebels.
“You don’t always get what you want in life, but you don’t worry about the end result,” Olson said. “You just work as hard as you can to get more opportunities to do good things or bad things. He didn’t try to fumble it, it got knocked out, and that’s the way it goes with quarterbacks, you take all the accolades but sometimes people get ticked when you fumble. But he plays his butt off, all our kids play their butts off.”
G-R thought they had the answer on a 67-yard passing play from Clark to Hudson Clark, but it was called back on a hold and Bedford’s defense held G-R to a punt.
Starting near midfield, Bedford’s bruising run game pounded away at the Rebels, as it seemed clear that the Bulldogs were content with letting it come down to the final seconds and give G-R’s offense as little time as possible to answer.
“What do you do?” Olson asked rhetorically about any potential idea to let Bedford score and try to win the game on offense. “You don’t just let people score, you work hard.”
Sending Coleman out was a decision helped by a tackle for loss on 3rd-and-goal on the final drive by the Rebels, Bedford coach Nally said.
“I don’t know if I would’ve been as eager to kick it if we hadn’t lost yards that play before,” he added. “But looking back I don’t think we could have run a play with a better percentage to win than him kicking that ball.”
It was a last-ditch effort from a Rebels team that allowed 233 yards on the ground to the Bulldogs, led by 134 yards on 26 carries for Garrison Motsinger.
“We were trying to stop the dive and just put our hearts out there,” Isaac Clark said. “We tried, man. They just made a field goal and won it.”
The Rebels led 16-8 at halftime when Drew Eilers reeled in a 1-yard throw from Clark with 14 seconds left in the half. Clark finished with 16-of-20 passing for 164 yards and an interception, also throwing a touchdown to Austin Gehring earlier in the second quarter.
Coming out in the 2nd half, Bedford scored on their first possession, and Treyvon Herron immediately answered with a 73-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to put the Rebels back on top. The Rebels got a defensive stop and followed with the drive sealed by Clark’s early fourth-quarter run.
It was the last points G-R would score on Wednesday, ending a dream season for seniors like Issac Clark.
Clark, Austin Vaverka, Austin Gehring and Landyn Brubaker ended their high school careers on the UNI-Dome turf last Wednesday. Olson praised that group, including Gehring and Brubaker who worked their way into reliable starting roles for the Rebels this season.
“We’ll never forget this for the rest of our lives,” Clark added. “We watched the guys playing here growing up, and I just couldn’t be more proud. We had a whole new line this year and they all stepped up, everyone worked their butts off in the weight room and on the field and I really think it came together and showed this season.”
The cupboard is hardly bare for next season with a strong junior class that includes several linemen and Drew Eilers, one of the team’s defensive leaders this season.
“Hopefully we get the guys in the weight room to hit it hard,” Eilers said. “Our seniors pushed us well and Isaac was a good leader who kept us going through games even when times were tough. We’re already pumped to go at it again next year.”