CEDAR FALLS — The ending wasn’t the way South Central Calhoun had envisioned, but the journey was well worth the heartache.
The seventh-ranked Titans (9-2 overall), making their first trip ever to the state semifinals in the UNI-Dome, couldn’t get past second-ranked Van Meter (11-0) on Saturday.
The Bulldogs built an early led and kept their distance, earning a 20-12 victory over the Titans to advance to the Class 1A state championship game.
Van Meter will now face top-ranked OABCIG (11-0) at 10 a.m. on Friday.
“This is the team that finally got us over the hump of being snake bit the quarterfinals,” said South Central Calhoun head coach Bryan Case. “I’m so proud of all of their accomplishments, but more proud of who they are as people. This team had to overcome a lot of obstacles this season, and they were able to conquer all of the challenges thrown their way — except the semifinals.
“It wasn’t our plan to lose, but God had other plans for us — and that — we can accept.”
Dalten Van Pelt put the first points on the board, scoring on a 16-yard run to put Van Meter up 6-0 with 1:52 left to go in the first quarter.
Both teams had a scoreless second quarter, before the Titans reached the endzone with 5:59 left in the third quarter on a one-yard plunge from senior Brennan Holder.
It was a busy fourth quarter as the teams combined for 20 points.
Van Meter tacked two quick touchdowns on the board in the period. Quarterback Jack Pettit scored from one-yard out (9:39 left) then Pettit hit Ganon Archer from 16 yards (3:06 left).
South Central Calhoun marched 52 yards down field in two plays, capped off with a 14-yard scamper from senior quarterback Cole Corey to cut the lead to 20-12. The final touchdown was set up with a 38-yard pass from Corey to junior Blake McAlister.
The Titans on-side kick failed as Van Meter recovered the ball.
McAlister led the Titan rushing attack with 48 yards, while Holder had 33.
“This year’s team was something special to me,” Holder said. “We have gone through a lot in 2020 and created an even closer bond than what we had because of all of it. Everyone on this team believed in each other and that’s what made us be able to make it past the quarterfinals for the first time in consolidated school history.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what this team has done. I’m going to miss South Central Calhoun football and playing with my brothers. We’ve been playing together since fourth grade and these guys mean a lot to me.”
For Van Meter, Van Pelt carried the ball 29 times for 170 yards and a score. Pettit had 71 yards. The Bulldogs rushed for 219 yards as a team. Pettit was 10-for-16 passing for 109 yards.
McAlister led South Central Calhoun with eight-and-a-half tackles. Jayden Soard and Holder had eight each and Kevin King recovered a fumble.
“I am extremely proud of my brothers,” said senior Jordan Khommanyvong. “We all came together and bonded right away. We have been through so much this year, but we always find ways to get through it. We had the attitude of “bring it” with about everything that challenged us.
“Getting to the dome was some tough work. Coming back and winning the second half in playoff games shows that we never gave up and we just kept pushing.”
The Titans may have not finished with a two-game trip to Cedar Falls, but the adventure to make it there was what made this team into a family.
“This team means so much to me. I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Khommanyvong said. “I have always loved coach Case and his coaching. He is an extremely great guy and I wouldn’t want to play for any other coach these last four years.
“I’m sad it has to end, but it was a good way to end the season in the the dome.”
Seniors Khommanyvong, Ayden Toms, Corey, Evan Jacobs, T’Juan Sanders, Blake Thompson, Jaydon Maschke, Holder, Kyler Schumacher, Carson Pibal, Andrew Trott and Keaton Daniel played their final game for the Titans.
“The seniors decided, back in March, that they were bound and determined to keep the tradition at SCC football alive and well,” Case said. “The captains led this team in the right direction, despite COVID-19, the rest of the guys bought into it. It started in March and the kids made it happen all the way through the semifinals.
“The seniors ended their four year career 39-6, with three quarterfinal appearances and one semifinal appearance. Not too shabby for small town Iowa kids. I’m happy for and love each and everyone of our kids. I wish our seniors the very best in their future endeavors.
“Thank you to our entire Titan Nation, for the support this season — Titan Strong.”