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BULLDOGS BREAK THROUGH: MFL MarMac headed to UNI-Dome for first time in school history

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Surrounded by other teammates, seniors Tristen Koehn and Elias Hatt share a celebratory embrace after MFL MarMac’s 22-7 win over Regina in the Class 1A quarterfinals. The Bulldogs are now headed to the state semifinals at the UNI-Dome for the first time in school history. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Bryce Diehl’s first quarter sack of Regina quarterback Gentry Dumont, which forced the Regals to settle for—and miss—a field goal, set the tone for the rest of MFL MarMac’s Nov. 3 quarterfinal win.

Running back Wyatt Powell led MFL MarMac with 160 rushing yards. He also scored two of the team’s three touchdowns.

Senior Kade McElwaine celebrates a defensive stop in MFL MarMac's win over Regina.

Bryce Radloff (left) and Quinn McGeough take down a Regal runner in the Nov. 3 Class 1A quarterfinal game.

Brayden Gordon (left) and Will Howes are excited about a Bulldog touchdown.

Kade McElwaine and Dylan Jones help tackle a Regina runner.

Wyatt Powell celebrates MFL MarMac's quarterfinal win. After losses this round in the four previous years, the Bulldogs finally broke through and to the UNI-Dome.

MFL MarMac head coach Dan Anderson and his players savor the victory.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

The MFL MarMac football team will play in the state semifinals at the UNI-Dome for the first time in school history this week. The Bulldogs defeated Regina Catholic 22-7 in a Nov. 3 Class 1A match-up, finally breaking through after four straight quarterfinal losses.

 

“All those other teams in the past made it this far, but we needed that one team to finally break that curse. Tonight, we came together as a team, the coaches put together a great game plan, and we executed,” said senior Carver Blietz-Bentien.

 

“It’s a lot different feeling, I’ll tell you that,” added fellow senior Wyatt Powell. “It was tough losing last year...We talked about it a lot all week. We can’t lose in the quarterfinals. We’ve gotta get to the Dome. We can’t be done yet.”

 

The pain of 2022’s season-ending loss to West Branch fueled the team to hit the weight room, to get better, Powell said.

 

“That’s all we did. We got better. I wish we could have gotten there all four years, but this one was big,” he reflected.

 

The high-powered Regina offense was among the best in the state, averaging over 40 points per game. A big completion in the Regals’ opening drive had them near the end zone early, but a sack by Bulldog defensive lineman Bryce Diehl stalled the momentum. Regina settled for—and missed—a field goal.

 

Blietz-Bentien called the sack the play of the night.

 

“It set the tone really early. We got pressure to them, and I think it shook that quarterback up,” he said.

 

Diehl said he simply gave it his all.

 

“I knew, if I made that play, it would help us win the game. I did what I could, and it helped us,” he shared.

 

The MFL MarMac offense responded from there. Early in the second quarter, running back Powell broke free for a 73-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion gave the team an 8-0 lead.

 

Brandon Christofferson then intercepted Regal quarterback Gentry Dumont on the next drive, handing the Bulldogs the ball at the Regina 35 yard line. Quarterback Blietz-Bentien later punched the ball in from a yard out, and the point after made it 15-0.

 

Powell acknowledged the Regals’ early drive was scary.

 

“I wasn’t doubting ourselves, but we gotta do better than that,” he said. “Busting that big touchdown was a big thing, and then we kept rolling that whole entire game.”

 

MFL MarMac also began settling in, said head coach Dan Anderson.

 

“The speed of the game started slowing down a little bit,” he explained. “They were hurrying up there at the beginning, and it took us a little while.” 

 

The Bulldogs had more chances to tack on points, but were stopped at the goal line just before halftime, then missed a field goal in their first third quarter possession. 

 

Early in the fourth quarter, though, Powell barrelled into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night. The extra point put MFL MarMac up 22-0.

 

Regina finally got on the board with just over four minutes remaining in the game, leading to what was the 22-7 final score.

 

Anderson wasn’t necessarily surprised by the near-shutout.

 

“I thought we could hold them. Don’t give them a big play, and it’s hard to move the ball on us consistently. We tackle well, and we tackle well in space,” he said. “And we shut down their running game really well. When you can’t run the ball, that puts you in a bind. We kept reminding our guys to communicate out there, nothing behind you. Let them throw that short stuff. Come up and make great tackles. Eventually they’re going to drop one or we’re going to make a good break on a ball and knock it down. All of a sudden it’s short and long and you can’t throw the short stuff, then you can bring more heat.”

 

“But to hold these guys to 7 points...to hold them off the scoreboard until four minutes left in the game, is pretty impressive,” Anderson continued. “[The Bulldog defense] stayed composed and swarmed the football. Didn’t give them much. We constantly had to keep moving around so they didn’t know what we were doing.”

 

Powell credited the defensive pressure on the quarterback.

 

“The DBs gotta get pressure, and they did tonight. Had a pick, and that was because the D-line got great pressure. Big shout out to the D-line, the DBs—they really stepped up tonight,” he said.

 

For Blietz-Bentien, it all came down to want.

 

“We knew they were a high-powered offense and we knew if they made a play here and there that we couldn’t get shook up. Just keep giving effort and want it more than them,” he stated.

 

Quinn McGeough was MFL MarMac’s leading tackler, with 5.5. Powell and Bryce Radloff each totaled 5, Kade McElwaine 3.5 and Diehl 3. Dylan Jones had 2.5 tackles, including the team’s second sack, while Christofferson earned the interception and Radloff a fumble recovery.

 

The Bulldog offense amassed just over 300 yards—266 of which were on the ground. Powell racked up 160 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, followed by 52 yards on 14 attempts for McGeough. Radloff tacked on 40 yards with five carries.

 

Blietz-Bentien ran the ball 11 times for 23 yards and a touchdown. He also completed three of seven passes for 41 yards. Thirty-four of those yards came on a completion to Christofferson.

 

Anderson said Powell’s big play came on the realization that Regina’s defensive end was playing head up on the Bulldog tight end, and jamming him.

 

“If we flex him out and put the wing back inside of him, then that defensive end has to make a tough decision. Widen all the way out with our tight end and make a huge gap, or fall back inside. He started falling inside. We were able to cave that guy down,” Anderson explained.

 

After Friday’s win, the players and Anderson were happy for one another, as well as the MFL MarMac community.

 

“I’m so happy to see all the fans out here, storming the field,” Blietz-Bentien said.

 

“It’s a pretty special time,” Anderson added, especially after the tears of sadness the past four years. “To finally see some tears of joy, it’s great for our community.”

 

“But it’s not about me,” he was quick to stress. “It’s my job to turn these kids into men, and hopefully we win some football games along the way. But I’m pretty happy. I’m proud of my coaching staff...I should just enjoy the moment. And I will. But I’ll probably be back watching film at 7 in the morning.”

 

On that film will be the Bulldogs’ next opponent, Underwood. The teams will clash on Friday, Nov. 10, at 1 p.m., in the UNI-Dome. The Bulldogs come into the match-up 10-1, as the Class 1A third seed. The second-seeded Eagles are also 10-1 and bring a potent offense as well as defense, said Anderson.

 

According to Blietz-Bentien, MFL MarMac will continue to rely on its physicality.

 

“I don’t know if there’s another team out there who can match our physicalness. That’s something unique we bring to the table, all around. All our positions are physical, from our free safety down to our D-linemen. We ain’t afraid of nobody, but we respect everybody,” he said.

 

Diehl is excited for the opportunity to play in the Dome.

 

“I feel a huge adrenaline rush, a lot of excitement. I can’t wait to play down there. It’s been a dream since my freshman year,” he stated.

 

The Bulldogs will be successful, Diehl said, “if we work as a team and do what we do best.”

 

Anderson coached in the UNI-Dome during the Iowa Shrine Bowl over the summer. He said that experience will be important—but so will the experience of his players.

 

“These seniors have played almost six years of football in four years with all the playoff games we’ve played. They’ve been in 13 extra games they wouldn’t have had if we wouldn’t have made it this far every year. I don’t think it will be too big for them,” he said. “I think they’ll play well and be excited.”

 

Most important, though, noted Anderson: “We’re not going down there just to play a football game. We’re going down there to win. These guys believe we can win.”

 

Ticket and spectator information for the semifinal game is available at mflmarmac.com, under the “Links and Livestreams” tab.

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