CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – For the towns of Saint Ansgar and Britt, Friday was designated to football. Both teams had a sea of red their sidelines for their Class A state semifinal matchups.
West Hancock has had an emotionally-fueled season. Bob Sanger, the team’s head coach for 52 years continues to fight his battle against leukemia. The Eagles are “Sanger Strong.”
West Hancock entered the UNI-Dome Friday afternoon with a perfect 11-0 record and had been ranked first in Class A all season long. The mission; get to the state championship.
The Eagles got out to a quick start with a six-yard touchdown run from Josef Smith, tallying three rushing touchdowns for 90 yards on the afternoon.
As always, Tate Hagen was a force to reckon with. The senior tallied two touchdowns, including a 69-yard run for a total of 244 yards against Woodbury Central.
The No. 1 Eagles (12-0) advance to play No. 5 Grundy Center (11-1) on Nov. 21 at 1:30 PM.
It has been 23 years since the Eagles won their last title. To win one for Coach Sanger, who has given so much to them would mean everything.
“It just feels good,” Smith said. “I know it makes him happy when we win...so just keep winning and the whole community is going to be happy.”
“Yes, it’s huge. Our entire community is behind him. Our entire team is behind him and it’s just all of the glory to him,” Hagen added.
Comeback falls short
St. Ansgar got to see what Grundy Center is made of. The Spartans were quick to get on the board after Zach Opheim ran the ball in for a four-yard touchdown. The Saints would block the kick but trailed 6-0.
The Saints would piece together a drive but the score would have to wait until the second quarter, a one-yard touchdown from Jack Sievert. But Grundy Center responded with a 20-7 lead at the half.
After a pep talk in the locker room, the Saints were a totally different team in the second half only allowing a field goal. Sievert would score two more touchdowns, cutting it down to a 23-21 ball game.
The Saints attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Grundy Center with just over three minutes to play.
St. Ansgar regained possession with 1:09 to play but would turn the ball back over to Grundy Center, falling short 23-21.
“We just mentally weren’t all there in the first half. We just had to get it out – figure out what they were doing and it was just too late I guess,” said Ryan Cole.
While the outcome wasn’t what they had hoped for, the team admits there is still a lot to be proud of.
“A lot for sure,” Sievert said. “We were here freshman and sophomore year, last year we came up short, and got back to it.”
“This group has won over 40 games or close to 40 games in four years,” said head coach Drew Clevenger. “I don’t think nerves were an issue it’s just sometimes you run into a good opponent, who’s well prepared – has a good scheme. Grundy did and credit to them.”