The Slipper Still Fits: Underdog Golden Bears Heading to State Title Game

by Tyler Lance
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The Bishop Garrigan Golden Bear football team is heading to the Iowa High School Athletic Association class 8-player state championship game after a stunning comeback against top-seeded 11-0 Winfield-Mt. Union that saw the Golden Bears score 28 unanswered points and shut out one of the most explosive offenses in the state in the second half, winning 34-20 after trailing 20-6 at halftime.

Bishop Garrigan senior Caden Roethler scored four rushing touchdowns, all in the second half, on his way to a 32 carry, 186 yard performance, while the defense forced two second half turnovers, and held the Wolves off of the scoreboard in each of their five second half drives.

Bishop Garrigan received the opening kickoff coming out of halftime, and embarked on an eight play, 47 yard drive that featured a conversion on fourth down and eight from the Wolves 30 yard line, as sophomore quarterback Tate Foertsch hit senior wide receiver Justin Bauer in stride for a 25 yard completion. Roethler punched in a five yard touchdown run on the next play, as Foertsch’s pass to senior tight end Benjy Trainer on the two point conversion made the score 20-14 Wolves with 9:31 left in the third.

The Golden Bears defense kept the momentum by forcing their first turnover of the game on Winfield-Mt. Union’s first drive of the second half. Wolves junior quarterback Jake Edwards moved the chains on third down and 20 with a 20 yard completion to sophomore wider receiver Max Edwards to keep the drive alive initially, however, three plays later, an Edwards pass would be picked off by Golden Bear senior Sam Plathe at the 15 yard line to end the scoring threat.

Plathe could sense the momentum and the energy of the crowd changing after the interception.

Following the Plathe interception, his fifth of the season, Bishop Garrigan marched down the field using an eight play, 65 yard drive that featured seven running plays. Roethler hit a big run of 21 yards on the third play of the drive to move the ball across midfield, and a few plays later, scored from seven yards out to tie the game at 20 with 2:48 left in the third, as the two point conversion attempt was no good.

After forcing a three and out on the ensuing Winfield-Mt. Union drive, Bishop Garrigan went 35 yards, this time in six plays, taking their first lead of the game with 9:59 on the clock in the fourth quarter, as Roethler scored from ten yards out for his third of four rushing scores, putting Bishop Garrigan up 26-20. The go-ahead drive nearly didn’t happen, as the Winfield-Mt. Union punt to Bishop Garrigan hit Golden Bear freshman Michael Joyce on the back of his calf while blocking on the return, but Bauer alertly dove on the ball at the 35 yard line to preserve the possession.

The Wolves offense looked primed to respond, as Edwards rolled right, threw back across the field, and hit senior running back Cam Buffington, who followed his blockers for a 31 yard gain on the first play of the next drive. However, the drive would be ruined by Bishop Garrigan senior nose guard Brody Ludwig, who strip sacked Edwards on third down and 10 a couple of plays later for the second forced turnover by the Bishop Garrigan defense.

Ludwig says his pass rush had the Wolves offensive line crossed-up.

The Golden Bears followed the forced turnover with their fourth touchdown in four drives during the second half, as Roethler ran in from five yards out to cap a five play 42 yard scoring drive and give Bishop Garrigan a 34-20 lead with 6:34 left. The touchdown was Roethler’s fourth of the day and 21st of the season.

Winfield-Mt. Union would get the ball back two more times, but turn it over on downs both times as the Golden Bears completed the second half shutout.

Golden Bear Head Coach Marty Wadle says the Bishop Garrigan defense rose to the occasion against a great offense.

Winfield-Mt. Union entered the game scoring nearly 57 and a half points per game before being held to 20 by Bishop Garrigan.

Plathe says holding opposing teams below their season average is a season-long trend for the Golden Bears.

Bishop Garrigan had to overcome a second half deficit for the third week in a row after falling behind early. After both teams turned the ball over on downs on their first possessions of the game, Winfield-Mt. Union broke through first as Cam Buffington scored on a two yard rushing touchdown with 7:26 to go in the first, giving the Wolves a 6-0 lead.

The next Wolves touchdown was set up by an athletic catch from wideout Carter Lloyd. Edwards connected with Lloyd on a 37 yard pass that featured a one handed grab by the senior receiver to set up first and goal from the four yard line. Buffington’s second rushing touchdown of the morning gave Winfield-Mt. Union a quick 12-0 lead in the early moments of the second quarter.

Bishop Garrigan went to the air for their first score of the ballgame, as Foertsch connected with senior wide receiver Drew Lappe on a 24 yard scoring pass after back to back carries of 11 and 10 yards by Roethler set up first and ten at the Wolves 24 yard line. Foertsch would complete 8 of 18 passes for 105 yards with one touchdown and one pick, also rushing 14 times for 70 yards.

The run defense of Bishop Garrigan proved to be a key factor in the victory, as a Winfield-Mt. Union offense that had been averaging nearly 233 rushing yards per game on 8.5 yards per carry would be held to 23 rushes for 10 yards. Running back and four year starter Cam Buffington, who was hobbled by an ankle injury, finished with 13 carries for 37 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Coach Wadle had a feeling the defense would rise to the occasion.

In spite of playing through an injury, Buffington wanted to be on the field battling for his teammates.

Wolves Head Coach Scott McCarty found a way to work around Buffington’s injury the previous couple games, and knows his senior left everything on the football field.

With the running game bottled up, the Wolves had to go to the air, as Jake Edwards went 13/30 for 212 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 pick while being sacked four times. Edwards had not previously attempted more than 22 passes in any game this season. Senior tight end Abram Edwards finished with 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, with his 31 yard scoring catch at the 4:42 mark of the second quarter putting Winfield-Mt. Union up 20-6.

Coach Wadle knew that in spite of a a multi-possession halftime deficit, his team couldn’t afford abandon their identity.

The Bishop Garrigan offensive line featuring senior Logan Nemmers, junior Keaton Helleseth, and sophomore Carter Schwab, as well as sophomore fullback Ethan Marso and tight ends Benjy Trainer and Wyatt Rosenmeyer, wore down the Wolves in the second half, allowing for long, clock-eating drives by the Golden Bear offense. Bishop Garrigan ended the game with a massive advantage in time of possession, 30:28 to 17:32, as Bishop Garrigan ran 70 plays on offense to Winfield-Mt. Union’s 54.

Roethler gives the offensive line a big part of the credit for his big day on the ground.

Coach McCarty says Bishop Garrigan’s offensive line did not wear down.

The Cinderella story continues for a Bishop Garrigan team that has knocked off undefeated teams in each of the previous three rounds of the playoffs. With the win, Bishop Garrigan will play for their first state title under 32 year head coach Marty Wadle, and first since a winning a class 2A title in 1985. The Golden Bears face 12-0 Bedford on Thursday, November 16th at 9:30 A.M. from the UNI-Dome, as Bedford outlasted Gladbrook-Reinbeck 31-30 in their semifinal matchup. Coverage of Thursday’s state championship matchup can be heard on KLGA 92.7 FM and KLGZ 98.5 FM/AM 1600.

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