GLADBROOK - Something had to change, because neither team was going to give.
In the end, the Rebels felt their superior effort and conditioning pushed them over the top of a Turkey Valley team hell-bent on bringing home the upset.
Sixth-ranked Gladbrook-Reinbeck outscored the Trojans 21-8 in the second half to overcome an early deficit, getting key contributions from non-traditional sources to defeat Turkey Valley 34-22 on Monday night and advance to the Class A state quarterfinals for the first time since 2005.
Football players celebrate win.
Photo by Ross Thede
The Rebels (9-2) will host second-ranked Wapsie Valley (11-0) in Friday's contest at 7 p.m. back at 'The Pit.' The Warriors blanked Grundy Center - the district runner-up to G-R - by a score of 35-0 Monday in Fairbank.
Wapsie Valley ended Gladbrook-Reinbeck's playoff run a year ago, 48-20, in the second round. The Warriors went on to win the Class A championships.
"It's just a chance to get back at them, getting a second chance to get what we lost last year," said G-R junior quarterback Camden Kickbush, who ran for two touchdowns and converted a pair of critical third- and fourth-down runs on his team's final drive.
Turkey Valley (7-4) responded with a 65-yard drive that milked a little more than three minutes and ended with Ryan Busta's 17-yard pass and a beautiful catch along the edge of the end zone by Eric Buchendahl. The same duo hooked up for the two-point conversion, bringing the Trojans within 27-22 with 6:13 to go.
But Gladbrook-Reinbeck milked most of the remaining clock before Kickbush scored his second touchdown of the night, a 2-yard plunge through the line that capped a 13-play, 69-yard drive that survived two third-down conversions and needed a 7-yard scamper by Kickbush on fourth-and-6.
"I just knew that we had to keep on getting first downs and running down the clock," said Kickbush. "I knew my line was going to give me the room and I just had to execute on the plays."
Phil Zimmerman picked off his second pass on the first play of Turkey Valley's following possession, and a pair of kneel-downs finished off the Gladbrook-Reinbeck victory.
"I think it was more effort, and we got a good talking to at halftime," said Clark, who ran his Class A-leading season rushing total to 2,037 yards. "We got the effort in the second half and we really pulled through. I knew that if our line kept blocking that they would give me a big hole to run through, and our fullback Dustin Dinsdale really paved the way for me too."
Kickbush's final touchdown put to end what began as a track meet, as both teams scored twice in the opening quarter. After Dinsdale's long TD dash broke the ice, Buchendahl returned the ensuing kick 73 yards to the Rebels' 16-yard-line. Three plays later, Riley Meirick scored from 6 yards out, and Luke Keunnen's conversion run put the Trojans on top 8-7.
Keunnen, a 6-foot-4, 247-pound running back, added an 8-yard touchdown romp to make it 14-7. The Rebels responded with a 13-yard, 65-yard drive that lasted nearly 7 minutes. Kickbush broke free on a bootleg run again, scoring from 17 yards out with a dive over the pylon. Meirick blocked the extra point, however, and neither team gained much ground on the other in a scoreless second quarter.
Linebacker Bryce Ehlers led the Rebel defense with two solo and 14 assisted tackles (nine total), while Colton Dinsdale totaled 8 1/2 stops and Dustin Dinsdale had seven total.
G-R overcame three turnovers to win a second state playoff game for the first time since the Rebels' run to the title game in 2004. That season included a 21-20, overtime win at home over Wapsie Valley - the last time the Warriors visited Gladbrook.
"They're a different team (than last year), we're a different team, so I just look at it as fundamentals," said G-R coach John Olson. "We just have to play a fundamental game against them. Last year we threw three pick-sixes and gave them 21 free points. If we do that again, it's not going to go so well.
"If we play really good and take care of business and we get to go to the Dome, that's pretty sweet."
The win prolonged G-R's fourth straight playoff appearance while putting a halt to Turkey Valley's fifth consecutive tournament run.