Garrigan drops heartbreaker

—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Bishop Garrigan hoists the Class A runner-up trophy after Thursday’s game in Cedar Falls. For more photos, please visit

CEDAR FALLS — There was pain in their eyes and frustration in their voices.

Above all else, though, pride still beamed from their hearts.

The wounds were fresh after the Bishop Garrigan football team came up a single point shy of their first state title in 31 years here on Thursday. Defending champion Gladbrook-Reinbeck rallied for a 20-19 victory over the Golden Bears in a Class A final that was as good as advertised and then some.

The second-ranked Rebels (13-0), who put the finishing touches on the program’s only unbeaten campaign ever, scored the go-ahead touchdown with 6:29 remaining in regulation and made it last. No. 4 Garrigan (12-1) jumped ahead 13-0 midway through the second quarter, but scored only once the rest of the way and couldn’t keep a late drive alive just past midfield as G-R ran its overall win streak to 23 games.

”It’s just really hard,” Golden Bear senior standout Gibson Behr said. ”To play in an unbelievable game like that and be so close … it’s been 11 years since (the program) has been in this position (playing in the finals). It’s important that we keep our heads up, because it’s been (a terrific) season.

”After two quarterfinal (contests) and a state runner-up (in the last three years), (the seniors) definitely can’t complain about how far we’ve come.”

Sophomore quarterback Brad Capesius scrambled 24 yards virtually untouched into the end zone on Garrigan’s opening drive, and Capesius found senior wideout Joel Vaske for a 24-yard touchdown with 7:04 left in the first half for a 13-0 Golden Bear advantage.

The Rebels scored twice in the last three-plus minutes of the second period, however, to pull ahead 14-13 by halftime.

”We had our chances, up 13-0, to extend the lead,” said Marty Wadle, who was coaching in his fourth state championship game in 25 years at the helm with the Golden Bears. ”And if we go ahead 20-0, it really changes (the dynamic). But we had a lot of little things — mistakes, penalties, coaching decisions — that added up on us.

”We’re all incredibly frustrated, obviously. As sad as it is that things didn’t go our way in the end, though, the first thing I said was how proud I am of them and how proud they should be. They had a great year. I know 54 other teams in Class A that would have done anything to be in this position.”

Capesius found Vaske again from 10 yards out early in the fourth quarter to push Garrigan ahead again, but G-R again answered. Hunter Lott fired a strike to Matt Johannsen covering 24 yards with 6:29 to go, and although the two-point conversion failed, the Rebels were clinging to a 20-19 lead.

The Golden Bears marched to midfield, but on 4th-and-2 from the G-R 48-yard line, an awkward handoff exchange allowed the Rebels to get the defensive stop they needed to virtually seal the victory.

Behr accumulated 106 yards on 23 carries. Capesius passed for 96 yards and rushed for 61 more.

Lott was an efficient 11 of 13 for 139 yards. Statistics were virtually even across the board, with G-R gaining 14 more yards of total offense in the end.

”They’re very, very good,” Behr said of the Rebels, ”and I think we proved we are, too. Hat’s off to them for pulling it out.

”I just want to thank all of my teammates. These guys are family to me.”

Wadle said his squad was ”just tough. A lot of heart. A lot of guts.”

”I met each senior individually (afterward) the way I always do,” Wadle said. ”I love all of these guys and care about them. This has been such an outstanding group, and they’ve represented our program and our school with respect and class.

”I think we were every bit as good as they were, so it’s disappointing, of course. But that doesn’t change how us coaches and (the Garrigan community) feel about them. We’ll all appreciate that more down the road.”