It will be the battle of the Bulldogs on Friday, as Van Meter will play host to Ogden in a bid for its first state semifinal appearance since 1996.
Van Meter reached the quarterfinal, and improved to 11-0 on the season, with a 34-14 second-round playoff victory over Mount Ayr on Monday.
The turning point came at the end of the first half, when Zach Forret intercepted a pass and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown, turning what might’ve been a halftime deficit into a 20-7 advantage at the break.
“He made a good read on it and made the play,” coach Eric Trudo said.
Brandon Brittain threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Grant Hoppes in the first quarter, and completed a five-play, 80-yard drive with a 63-yard touchdown pass to Logan Crawford in the second. He added two rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Van Meter held a decisive advantage in time of possession, 32:15-15:30.
Brittain was 7-of-13 passing for 128 yards, and carried 21 times for 156 yards. Cody Blackwell added 67 yards on the ground, and Hoppes caught four passes for 60 yards.
Chase Wyant collected a season-high 16 tackles, while Spencer Benton added 13 and Crawford finished with 10.
Kicker Bryce Godwin broke the school record for PATs in a season, adding four more to his season total of 48. That number ranks him third in Class 1A, and 13th in the state.
Van Meter reached the second round by beating Treynor 41-0 on Oct. 30. Brittain threw for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 114 and three more. Blackwell ran for 93 yards and a score, and both Hoppes and Crawford caught touchdown passes.
Benton, Ben Engstrand and Hoppes intercepted passes, and Parker Suckow had a sack, 10 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
The Bulldogs turn their attention to Ogden, which stunned third-ranked St. Albert 12-10 with a late field goal on Monday in Council Bluffs. Ogden is 10-1 with its only loss a 35-28 decision in Van Meter on Sept. 20.
Blackwell and Brittain combined for 309 rushing yards in that game, with Blackwell averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.
Ogden held St. Albert to a season low in points on Monday, and kept its lucrative ground game in check.
“I think there were things that were very successful in that game, and we’ll try to execute those again,” said Trudo, whose team is 3-1 against Ogden dating back to 2010. “We’re here at the quarterfinals for a reason. We’re not going to deviate from that too much. What’s got us here has been successful.”
Ogden quarterback Caleb Frye has thrown for 1,980 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was 24-of-34 for 284 yards and two touchdowns against Van Meter earlier this year. Sophomore Austin Lentz ran for 109 yards and a touchdown, and receiver Jake West set school records with 10 catches for 169 yards.
Many of Van Meter’s players were also on the baseball team, also coached by Trudo, that reached the state semifinals last summer.
“Our kids are pretty level-headed, and they handled that pressure (during the baseball season) just fine,” Trudo said. “We’ve had a lot of big games, playing Ogden, Mount Ayr twice, and being in a tough, one-point game with Pella Christian.
“We’ve been in those tough games. Hopefully that serves us well.”