CEDAR FALLS - For the first time in school history, the Clarion-Goldfield football team was able to hoist a trophy at the end of their season.
It may not have been a state championship celebration for the Cowboys here Monday following a 31-0 Class 2A quarterfinal loss to seventh-ranked Dyersville-Beckman, but for a program that had never experienced a single playoff victory before the 2011 postseason kicked off, they'll definitely take it.
And hopefully, according to head coach Paul Hansch, build on it.
"These kids never quit learning and working hard to get better," Hansch said from the north endzone of the UNI-Dome as his players huddled around their freshly-minted state quarterfinal hardware. "It was such a great group to be around and I'm very proud of what they accomplished - something that's never been done here before.
"Ideally we'll look back 10 years from now and point to this team as the one that started a new chapter of success (at C-G). There are a lot of reasons for our guys to walk out of here holding their heads high."
The Cowboys (7-5 overall) were trying to spring another upset and solidify a return trip to the home of the Northern Iowa Panthers next week. Instead, the turnover bug bit Clarion-Goldfield at an inopportune time and the Trailblazers (11-1) capitalized.
Two fumbles and an interception before halftime helped lead to a 10-0 deficit, and the Cowboys were never able to recover. Playing its eighth game away from home this season - and third in as many playoff contests - C-G seemed to tire down the stretch as D-B pulled away with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns.
"We had our opportunities in the first half, but we didn't capitalize," Hansch said. "When you combine that with the times we put the ball on the turf or gave it back to them in our territory, it adds up. But that's playoff football - especially when you get this deep (into the bracket)."
Seniors Wyatt Sann and Dominic Brandt combined for 151 yards rushing on 36 carries. A balanced Trailblazer attack - D-B finished with 166 yards passing and 142 rushing - kept the ball moving and the Cowboys guessing.
Trailblazer quarterback Connor Golden completed 15 of his 25 throws for 166 yards. D-B ran for 112 of its 142 yards after the break, while the Cowboys managed just 76 yards of total offense and three first downs in the second half.
Junior Max Gangstead recovered a fumble for C-G, which is slated to return seven starters on offense and seven more on defense next fall despite the losses of Sann and Brandt.
"Even though we walk away optimistic about our future because we're a relatively young lineup overall, I can thank these nine seniors enough," Hansch said. "They set the tone with their commitment and drive. It all started with them.
"I'd also like to thank our fans. We had a fantastic following. They've made a lot of road trips with us regardless of distance, and it was very encouraging for the kids to look up and see all of that red and black in the stands."
Contact Eric Pratt at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org