Consistent Golden Bears rank among the state’s elite

Photo by Greg Grabianowski, for The Messenger Bishop Garrigan senior quarterback Brad Capesius scrambles for a gain against St. Edmond in Algona earlier this season.

ALGONA — Marty Wadle and Bishop Garrigan are in a familiar position heading down the stretch of the season, but in his 26th year at the helm, Wadle has been around long enough to know nothing can be assumed in football.

“We knew with a lot of kids coming back that this would all have to start with the seniors,” said Wadle, who is 193-75 in his career. “We’re in a good spot right now. We’ve had a couple of physical weeks of football, but the kids are enjoying it.

“We can’t take anything for granted, though. Things change quickly in this game.”

The third-ranked (Class A) Golden Bears are off to a 7-0 start, and the program hasn’t lost a single regular season in game in the past four seasons — a streak currently at 34 straight. This year’s senior group has been in the program during a four-year span where the Bears are 39-3 overall and 23-0 in district action.

Beginning with their freshman campaign in ’15, the Golden Bear senior class is 5-3 in the playoffs, with a runner-up showing in 2016.

With winning comes streaks — and the Bears have plenty of them.

Garrigan has qualified for the postseason 14 consecutive times. Only three streaks — West Des Moines Valley (26), Bettendorf (20) and West Lyon (15) — are currently longer.

The Bears also have 26 playoff appearances all-time, which is tied for sixth best in the history of Iowa high school football. They have four state runner-up showings, including three under Wadle. Garrigan was the 1985 state champion.

Wadle has adjusted with the game’s evolution, knowing that regardless of the success, there is never a good time to rest on one’s laurels.

“Sometimes I’m not a nice guy,” said Wadle, who is tied for 12th most playoff berths among coaches. “But as I get older, I analyze a little more.

“We know what it takes, and everyone is on the same page. They know everything we do is for a reason.”

The Golden Bears haven’t been flashy on offense this season, averaging 241 yards on the ground, with a 62-yard per game average through the air.

Seniors Parker Kohlhaas (571 yards), Brad Capesius (445), Eric Thul (322) and Sam Vaske (193) have combined for 21 rushing touchdowns. Kohlhaas and Capesius have seven and eight, respectively, while Thul and Vaske have four and two.

Capesius has rushed for 1,323 yards and 20 scores, while Kohlaas has 901 yards and 10 TDs. Thul is at 633 with nine touchdowns in 2018, while Vaske has 524 yards and five scores.

The quartet has accumulated 3,381 yards on the ground and 44 touchdowns total in their careers.

Through the air, Capesius — who is 25-0 in the regular season as the starting signal-caller — has thrown for 437 yards and six TDs. Capesius has thrown for 2,340 yards and 30 touchdowns in his career.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Golden Bears are giving up 284 yards per game, 155 on the ground and 99 through the air. They have a plus-four turnover margin with 15 takeaways.

Juniors Alex Mamen (42.5) and Cade Winkel (39) led the defense in tackles. Senior Tristan Ferguson and Capesius have four interceptions each. Capesius has seven picks in his career.

The Golden Bears’ streak was in jeopardy last week, when they trailed 6-0 in the fourth quarter before pulling out a 12-6 victory over North Union. Bishop Garrigan has had to fight for each victory this season, with four victories coming by 10 points or less.

“Coming into Week 1 (against Emmetsburg), we knew we weren’t going to have any games off this season,” Wadle said. “That (first) win gave these guys even more confidence, which is something this group didn’t lack in the first place.

“It’s taken a little bit of time to come around (this season), but this group is improving and playing for what we need to be playing for. They’ve had a lot of fun winning games, and we just want to finish the year up strong.”