The underdog story of class 8-player football in the state of Iowa wrapped up the final chapter with a championship ring, as the Bishop Garrigan Golden Bears completed their pursuit of a state title with a 39-30 win over the Bedford Bulldogs on Thursday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
After trailing at some point in the second half in each of their previous three playoff games, Bishop Garrigan held the lead from the 8:05 mark of the second quarter and beyond in the state championship game, turning a 16-14 halftime lead into a 31-14 lead early in the fourth quarter using two signature, clock-eating drives.
After receiving the second half kickoff, the Golden Bears embarked on a 13 play, 65 yard drive that burned 7:06 off of the clock and ended on a 16 yard touchdown pass from Tate Foertsch to Drew Lappe. Bishop Garrigan would take a 24-14 lead, as Lappe took the direct snap on the PAT attempt instead of kicking it and ran into the end zone for the two point conversion.
Desperately needing a response on offense, Bedford would be bitten by the penalty bug instead, as an illegal shift wiped out a 35 yard pass on a trick play featuring tight end Cal Peterman throwing the ball to Graham Godsey. Bedford failed to get a first down after the penalty and punted the ball back to Bishop Garrigan.
Much like their first drive of the second half, the Golden Bears methodically marched down the field, this time with a 12 play, 63 yard drive, capped off by an Ethan Marso touchdown run from two yards out. Lappe’s extra point, which grazed off of the upright and stayed between the posts, gave Bishop Garrigan a 31-14 lead with 9:08 left in the 4th quarter. The Golden Bears kept the ball on the ground for all 12 plays of the drive, as a 23 yard run by Foertsch on the second play of the possession pushed Bishop Garrigan across midfield.
Bishop Garrigan Head Coach Marty Wadle feels the long drives were backbreakers for Bedford.
Although Bedford would score two fourth quarter touchdowns, one on a Garrison Motsinger 11 yard reception from Connor Nally with 7:08 left and another on a Nally one yard quarterback sneak with 1:34 left, time was not on the Bulldogs’ side, as Michael Joyce recovered the final onside kick attempt for Bedford before Bishop Garrigan ran out the clock. In between the two Bedford touchdowns, Caden Roethler added an insurance score for the Golden Bears, scoring his 22nd rushing touchdown of the season with 3:24 left on the clock.
Roethler says it is difficult for any team to battle Bishop Garrigan’s offensive line for a full four quarters.
Foertsch cited the fight in the Golden Bears running backs and offensive line.
Just like in their state semifinal matchup against Winfield-Mt. Union, Bishop Garrigan was forced to play from behind as Bedford struck first in the first quarter. After the two teams exchanged punts on their first drives, Silas Walston broke a 40 yard run for a Bulldog touchdown at the 6:16 mark of the first, as a good two point conversion gave Bedford an 8-0 advantage.
Coach Wadle says Bishop Garrigan’s defense stepped up after the initial touchdown.
The Golden Bears quickly shook off the first score by Bedford, hitting a big pass play on their very next drive to answer back, as Foertsch connected with Justin Bauer for a 40 yard score. Roethler would tack on the two point conversion on the ground to tie the game at eight with 3:50 left in the first quarter.
Bauer, who finished with three receptions for 54 yards and a score, says Foertsch delivered a great throw on the touchdown.
After the Bishop Garrigan touchdown, the field position battle swung towards the Golden Bears, as the Bulldogs attempted to convert a 4th and 2 from their own 35. A dropped snap resulted in a three yard loss and Bishop Garrigan taking over in Bedford territory. However, the Golden Bears did not capitalize on the field position, as Roethler was stopped for no gain on a 4th and 2 run from the Bedford five yard line.
Bishop Garrigan’s next score and first lead of the game came with 8:05 on the clock in the second quarter. After back to back completions by Foertsch to Bauer and Lappe respectively, Foertsch took matters into his own hands, patiently following his blockers on a run to the right, taking the ball 24 yards for a touchdown. The Golden Bears would grab a 16-8 lead on the two point conversion, as Bishop Garrigan kept their swinging gate extra point formation wide to the right, and holder Sam Plathe competed a pass to Benjy Trainer for the conversion. The Golden Bears ultimately would convert all four of their two point attempts, as well as their only PAT kick on the morning.
The Bulldogs did get a big score before halftime, with Nally scoring on his first of two quarterback sneak touchdowns, breaking the plane with just 13 seconds remaining in the first half to cap off a 13 play, 63 yard drive. Walston would be stopped on the two point conversion to preserve a 16-14 lead for Bishop Garrigan going into intermission.
Foertsch finished 7/10 for 109 yards and two touchdowns through the air, bringing his season total to 21 touchdown passes. The Golden Bear sophomore also carried the ball 11 times for 82 yards and his 11th rushing touchdown of the season.
Foertsch says he is a different quarterback than the one who took the field in the first game.
Walston finished as the leading rusher for Bedford with 15 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown. Nally added 12 carries for 55 yards and 2 scores, but was held to 9/18 for 92 yards through the air. Defensively, Andrew Lichter finished as Bishop Garrigan’s leading tackler with eight, while Bauer added seven stops and Roethler picked up six.
The preparation for Bedford’s offense was different in the week leading up to the game according to Roethler.
Coach Wadle feels it was only fitting for Bishop Garrigan’s second state title to come exactly 38 years to the date after their first.
Foertsch was especially happy to see the upperclassmen win a state championship.
After growing up watching Bishop Garrigan teams of the past, Bauer says to win it all this year is a dream come true.
After never being ranked in the top 10 of the state poll at any point during the season, Bishop Garrigan ends the year with a 12-1 record, hoisting the second state championship trophy in program history. Bedford ends the season with a record of 12-1, falling one game shy of a perfect season. The victory for the Golden Bears marks the fourth straight week knocking off a previously unbeaten opponent. The win also gave 32nd year Head Coach Marty Wadle his first state title, as Wadle shared the credit with the rest of his coaching staff.
The state title for Wadle and the Golden Bears represents the completion of a program transformation that saw Bishop Garrigan finish 3-6 in 2021 and 3-5 in 2022 before jumping to a 12-1 record this season.