For the first time since 2016, and for the first time overall in the 8-player class, Bishop Garrigan football is on to the UNI-Dome, punching their ticket to the state semifinals with a 26-16 win over CAM on Thursday night at Conway Field in the quarterfinal round of the IHSAA playoffs.
Trailing 16-14 at halftime, the Golden Bears pitched a shutout over the final 24 minutes against one of the most prolific offenses in the state, a team that had been averaging 54 points a game, and a team that had scored 22 points in the second half last week to rally from down by two touchdowns against West Bend-Mallard.
The defense came up with three interceptions in the fourth quarter, two by Sam Plathe and one by Caden Roethler, as a relentless pass rush forced Cougar quarterback Chase Spieker into some uncharacteristic mistakes.
Tate Foertsch scored twice in the fourth quarter on quarterback sneaks, once with 4:41 left in the 4th to give the Golden Bears a 20-16 lead, and another with 2:14 left to make the score 26-16.
The first score of the fourth was set up by a highlight reel diving catch by Drew Lappe for 45 yards on second and 16, setting Bishop Garrigan up at the CAM 13 yard line. Lappe finished his night with 6 catches for 86 yards.
The final nail in the coffin would be Spieker’s third pick of the night, coming with 1:24 left, as Ethan Marso applied major pressure on the quarterback, and a ball thrown up for grabs was picked by Roethler and returned to the 39 yard line of CAM. Facing third down and three yards to go after that, Marso carried the ball for seven yards and sealed the game with the first down.
The Bishop Garrigan defense lifted the team out of several precarious situations on the night, as one of the most critical situations would come in the third quarter. Leading the Golden Bears 16-14, the Cougars received a blocked punt by Collin Bower to set up the CAM offense at the Bishop Garrigan six yard line with a chance to go up by two scores. A run for a loss of one on the first play of the drive was followed by a holding penalty. After an incompletion set up third an goal from the 17 yard line, Spieker connected with Jack Follmann for an apparent touchdown, but the score would be wiped out by another offensive holding penalty as the scoring opportunity fizzled after that. Bishop Garrigan stopped CAM two other times in goal to go situations without points being scored, as Spieker’s first pick of the fourth quarter came on a third and goal with the Cougars still up 16-14. The first goal to go stop for the Bishop Garrigan defense came early in the second quarter with the Golden Bears down 8-6 and trying to avoid going down by two possessions early, as CAM would get the ball to the one yard line, but a pre-snap penalty and a couple of incompletions would end the scoring chance.
Offensively, Bishop Garrigan threw the first punch, as Foertsch connected with Justin Bauer on a 51 yard strike to give the Golden Bears a 6-0 lead at the 4:41 mark of the first quarter, as the extra point was blocked. CAM responded quickly on the ensuing possession. After Follmann returned Lappe’s kickoff to midfield, Spieker connected with Austin Williams on a 27 yard strike on third and 12 to set CAM up at Bishop Garrigan’s 15 yard line. A couple of plays later, Spieker’s 14 yard touchdown pass to Follmann in the back of the end zone followed by a two point conversion gave CAM a 8-6 with 4:28 left in the first quarter. The receiving touchdown was Follmann’s 11th of the season.
After the teams traded scoreless drives deep into the second quarter, Foertsch scored his first of three rushing touchdowns, putting Bishop Garrigan on top 14-8 with a two yard quarterback sneak touchdown, followed by a two point conversion that featured a successful shovel pass to Marso, who shrugged off several tacklers on his way to the end zone.
CAM took the lead on their very next drive, with Spieker hitting Bower for a 36 yard score, as the Golden Bears couldn’t bring down the powerful tight end along the sideline. The two point conversion gave CAM a 16-14 advantage at halftime.
Foertsch finished the night with one of his best games of the season for the Golden Bears, completing 11/15 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown without throwing any interceptions, while adding 16 carries for 57 yards and three additional scores. Foertsch’s counterpart Spieker was 14/32 through the air for 198 yards and two touchdowns with three picks, after coming into the game with just four interceptions on the season. Most of Spieker’s passing yards wen to Bower and Follmann, as Bower caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, while Follmann hauled in four receptions for 58 yards and a score. Spieker also went for 41 yards on the ground on 17 carries. Roethler led Bishop Garrigan in rushing, with 22 carries for 91 yards.
Bishop Garrigan will be the number four seed at state and face top seeded Winfield-Mt. Union, who carries a record of 11-0 into Wednesday’s semifinals after defeating Don-Bosco 34-29 on Thursday night. Wednesday’s semifinal game will kick off at 10 A.M. as the winner faces the winner of Bedford vs. Gladbrook-Reinbeck on Thursday, November 16th at 9:30 A.M. in the state championship game of the 8-player class.