GLADBROOK - For an outcome as anticipated as this, the suspense was non-existent.
The 94th annual Battle for the Bell was not the game for the ages its circumstances built it up to be, but that didn't lessen Gladbrook-Reinbeck's enjoyment of its most resounding victory in a series that has existed since 1920.
The Rebels ran roughshod over their arch-nemesis behind Class A's leading rusher, as Chase Clark scampered for 202 yards and three touchdowns in G-R's 42-0 triumph over Grundy Center in a showdown between two unbeaten District 4 teams.
G-R football players bring the Victory Bell back to their sideline after defeating Grundy Center 42-0 in the 94th annual game in the series Friday night in Gladbrook.
Photo by Ross Thede
The win secured a fourth-consecutive state playoff berth for Gladbrook-Reinbeck (6-2, 4-0) and put the Victory Bell in the hands of the big guys up front who escorted Clark to his fifth straight 200-yard performance.
Yet the Rebel linemen who first got their hands on the Bell proved better at blocking than in collecting sought-after traveling trophies. The Victory Bell broke into two pieces before the team reassembled it and took it back to its own sideline for photo opportunities. G-R reclaimed the prize that spent a season with the Spartans after last year's 13-0 Grundy Center win.
"We really wanted to take it at them right away," said G-R coach John Olson. "It's easy to get caught up in the moment (of the rivalry) but they were focused. It's the same group of kids only grown up. They know how big it is for the community and for the district, but they just stayed focused and played football."
The Rebels have won 13 of the last 16 in the series, though never by this great of a margin. G-R ran for 310 of its 407 yards of total offense, and the defense limited Grundy Center (5-3, 4-1) to 117 yards all told.
"They've got a good back and a really good offensive line in front of him," credited Spartan coach Brent Thoren. "The bottom line is they got up in our face and were really physical."
Clark ran his season total to 1,355 yards without touching the ball in the second half, as G-R went into the break with a 35-0 lead. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound tailback sat out the rest of the way secure in the fact that the Rebels were going to win this one.
"There was a big focus on this one, the coaches pushed us hard for this one," said Clark. "They wanted it maybe more than we did, and they challenged us to want it as badly as they did.
"We made it a focus to come out and win the district, to show we were going to dominate."
The opening drive did nothing to help Grundy Center's chances. Having already clinched a playoff berth, the Spartans gained 7 yards on the game's first possession and followed it up with a 6-yard punt. Gladbrook-Reinbeck turned to Clark for 30 of its 36 yards on a short scoring drive, and quarterback Camden Kickbush finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown dive.
The Spartans moved the chains four times with their assortment of misdirection plays but stalled out before Brock Rohler's 54-yard field-goal try sailed wide left.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck's 80-yard march to paydirt took just 3:26 off the clock, but so much more out of the Spartan defenders. Kickbush hit Josh Cooley for an 11-yard pass on third-and-inches, and two plays later Clark went 46 yards for the score with a handful of broken tackles - none quite as prominent as his stiff-arm that shrugged off Ethan Hogle with 25 yards to go.
"He's got long strides and he's fast and I think he runs lower than he did before," Olson said of his star tailback. "That stiff-arm just makes him a beast. He's hard to tackle."
Clark credited the boys in blue in front of him for a lot of the heavy lifting.
"Our linemen did a really good job, they controlled the line and they got downfield and were getting blocks in their secondary," Clark said. "They're good."
The starting front five on G-R's line - Luke Holman, Dalton Schwartz, Bradon Trepp, Pete Meyers and Zach Pierce - paved the way for 310 rushing yards on 49 carries, more than 6 yards per carry. Eric Stoakes stepped in for Clark in the second half and gained 95 yards - nearly as much as Grundy Center for the game.
The Spartans, averaging 30 points and 378 yards of offense per game, got beat up front and found themselves trailing on the scoreboard. Unable to use its entire playbook at a desired pace, Grundy Center saw its five-game winning streak stopped abruptly.
Clark scored on runs of 11 and 1 yards in the second quarter, and Meyers moved to fullback for a 3-yard score with 17 seconds left in the first half. A 28-yard pass play from Kickbush to Phillip Zimmerman set up Clark's 1-yard run, and a 41-yard strike to Wyatt Swanson preceded the Meyers score.
Dustin Dinsdale's long return of an apparent interception for the final play of the half was waved off because of an illegal block, but the Rebels still rolled into the intermission with a 35-0 lead.
Dinsdale got a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter, but that was after having a 61-yard punt return for a score called back on another block in the back.
The Rebels go on the road to face Belle Plaine (3-4, 2-2) next Friday, while Grundy Center is back home for Senior Night against North Tama (1-6, 1-3), Thoren's former stomping grounds.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck sophomore Noah Ohrt and Grundy Center senior Hillary Samo served as honorary team captains for the coin toss prior to Friday night's game. Ohrt has been battling Ewing's Sarcoma for nearly two years while Samo was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma this summer. Grundy Center retained the lead in the all-time series with Reinbeck and Gladbrook-Reinbeck, 43-42-9, though this win was the most lopsided in Reinbeck's favor in the history of the annual contest. Reinbeck won 47-6 in 1972.