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E-Hawks will return to Dome

November 8, 2011
By JOSH MEYER Messenger Sports Writer

EMMETSBURG - For a whole year, the perennial power Emmetsburg football program could only wonder what might have been.

With last season's state quarterfinal setback to West Lyon supplying plenty of fuel for the fire, the unbeaten and top-ranked E-Hawks (12-0 overall) managed to flip the script this time around against their District 2 nemesis here Monday.

Turning in a dominant performance from start to finish, Emmetsburg soared into the Final Four of the Class 1A playoffs with a 35-0 blanking of defending state champion and No. 9 West Lyon (9-3) at Duane Twait Field.

"We had a great team effort and came out ready to play," said EHS head coach Mike Dunlap, whose squad also downed West Lyon in Week 6 of the regular season by a 20-13 final. "We always want to set the tone early, and I was really proud of our kids."

Seeking their 10th state crown in school history, the E-Hawks will now battle 2010 state semifinalist and second-ranked Council Bluffs St. Albert (12-0) in the 1A semifinal round on Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. The undefeated Falcons hammered No. 8 Logan-Magnolia Monday, 35-7.

Looking every bit like a title contender, the E-Hawks found paydirt on five of their six first-half drives last night and posted all 35 points before the break. Brady Berkland, a 165-pound senior, staked the home team to an early advantage, breaking free around the left end for a 53-yard touchdown scamper on Emmetsburg's first play from scrimmage.

"That was a new play we just put in," Berkland said. "I just saw a lot of green grass in front of me and was able to take it all the way."

Following a second consecutive Wildcat three-and-out, the E-Hawks went right back to work, as junior Andrew Wellik reached the endzone from three yards out, capping a productive 12-play, 59-yard drive.

Berkland later delivered two more scoring jaunts (20 and 1-yard) before the intermission, while Wellik contributed a 1-yard touchdown plunge of his own. Due to the 35-point differential rule, the clock then ran continuously throughout the entire third and fourth quarters.

"We played well in all phases of the game - offense, defense and special teams," said Dunlap. "I thought our defense really did an excellent job to hold (West Lyon) down."

Emmetsburg racked up 13 first downs and 288 yards of total offense, including 250 on the ground. The suffocating E-Hawk defensive unit also rose to the occasion once again, forcing five punts and holding the Wildcats to only two first downs and 64 combined yards.

Berkland accounted for a team-high 97 rushing yards on 19 carries.

"I've been waiting a year for that," Berkland said of the quarterfinal victory. "We know we just have to take it one day and one game at a time now."

Wellik notched 82 yards as well on 18 totes for Emmetsburg, which improved to 69-26 all-time in their state record 36th playoff appearance.

Making an impact defensively for the E-Hawks were senior Ryan Kliegl (fumble recovery and pick), sophomore Tyler Henson (fumble recovery) and senior Marcus Akridge (sack).

Kaleb Heyer was the top rusher for West Lyon, gaining 28 yards on 12 attempts. With the loss, the Wildcats who also won 2A state crowns in 1998 and '99 fell to 36-19 in 22 all-time postseason trips.

Contact Josh Meyer at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net