By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — ALBIA — The second-ranked Albia football team used an outstanding defensive effort to shut out formerly undefeated Mediapolis 7-0 in the Class 2A quarterfinals Friday.
"We don't play the scoreboard, we try to play within ourselves," Albia coach Jerry Staten said. "If they rip off a big run, its like, 'so what, next play."'
Alex Shultz scored the game's only touchdown on a 3-yard run at the genesis of the second quarter. It was a tale of two halves for the Blue Demon offense, while Albia's defense was rock-solid throughout. The Blue Demons' offensive running game was very effective at the start of the game. Alex Schultz, thanks to some great blocking, continuously creased through holes for solid chunks of yardage. Albia fullback Griffin Osing also got in on the action, as he plowed his way forward for some nice runs.
Ryan Sarver spearheaded the Albia defense with a team-best 12 tackles and Bryce Leshen, Dalton Folkerts, and Carter Isley recorded eight tackles each. While the Blue Demons' pass attack was rendered virtually nonexistent, Albia's run game managed to cobble together 164 yards on 41 carries. The Blue Demons enjoyed the crux of their offensive success in the first half — they failed to convert on one first down in the second half. Bryce Leshen's sole completion in the game was a 4-yard pass to Zach Hugen.
Albia was the embodiment of a bend-but-don't-break defense against the Bulldogs. While the Blue Demon defense's first-half performance was impressive in and of itself, it was Albia's second-half defensive effort that transformed a great performance into a truly exceptional one. Despite being on the field for the majority of the second half, and having to deal with more than their share of adversity, the Blue Demons' defense simply wouldn't fold. Every time the Bulldogs looked to be on the cusp of a scoring drive, Albia would torpedo that threat with a huge defensive play. Coach Staten explained why his defense never surrendered to fatigue or exhaustion in the second half.
"We don't have a lot of guys going both way," he said. "If you're going both ways you're going to get tired and we only have about three guys going both ways.
"This is the strongest team we've had here at Albia. When you're stronger you can play longer into the game."
Staten complimented conditioning and Albia defensive line coach Tim Folkerts and strength coach Neil Mick for having his defense in shape for the game.
"Half the team can bench over 200 pounds or better and six years ago it was just one guy," Staten said. "It's an indicator of your overall team strength."
He also praised defensive coordinator Russ Bayer for the defense's overall performance.
"They carried the day for us defensively," Staten said. "They won the offensive battle, we won the defensive battle."
After it didn't experience much success in the first half, Mediapolis' Drew Foster began to complete some passes in the second half. First, Foster hit Kelton Gourley cutting across the middle of the field in the third quarter. Then Foster hooked up with Drew Massner on a slant pattern for a first down. But, just when it looked a drive was beginning to take shape for Mediapolis, Ryan Sarver came through with a big sack on Foster. Mediapolis was able to muster some more offense after the sack, but the Bulldogs' drive eventually fizzled out.
After the Bulldogs were forced to relinquish the ball back to Albia, the Blue Demons' next offensive series ended in disaster when Seth Bietz picked off Brett Leshen's pass with less than a minute left in the third quarter. Once again, Mediapolis offense got things clicking in the fourth quarter. This time, however, the Bulldog drive detonated when Albia fumbled the ball away to the Blue Demons.
Later in the quarter, Mediapolis put together another drive that left them at the Blue Demons' 23-yard line. Dalton Folkerts brought the momentum the Bulldogs had gathered during the drive to a screeching halt with a sack on Foster for a 15-yard loss. On the next play, Shadow Leshen picked off Foster in the end zone.
Albia's next offensive series went nowhere, forcing the Blue Demons to punt from their own end zone. This led to Mediapolis starting its next drive on Albia's own 30-yard line with one minute left to go in the game. But, yet again, Albia's defense rose to the occasion. After the Bulldogs' first three plays produced nothing, Bryce Leshen sacked Foster on fourth down. Albia's defense had once again stood firm, and the Blue Demons were headed to the Class 2A semifinals.
The Blue Demons play sixth-ranked Waukon at 7:06 p.m. Saturday in Cedar Falls at the UNI-Dome. To advance to the semifinals, Waukon shut out New Hampton 36-0. Indian quarterback Parker Hesse ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries to help Waukon trounce New Hampton.
Albia 7, Mediapolis 0
Albia 7 0 0 0 — 7
Media 0 0 0 0 — 0
Scoring By Quarters
Albia — Alex Schultz 3-yard run (Justin Bossard kick).
First downs 9 13
Rushes-yards 41-164 33-76
Passing yards 4 115
Total Yards 168 191
Comp-Att-Int 1-8-2 14-38-1
Return Yards 3-(-)36 7-83
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yds 4-38 5-40
RUSHING — Drew Buster 15-115 yards, Josh Osborne 7-8 yards, Cole Erickson 4-3 yards, Drew Foster 7- (-) 50.
PASSING — Drew Foster 14-38, 115 yards.
RECEIVING — Kelton Gourley 4-51 yards, Drew Massner 3-30 yards, Seth Bietz 2-29 yards, Drew Buster 2-5 yards, Osbourne 1-1, Cole Erickson 2-(-) 1.
INTERCEPTIONS — Erickson 1-0, Bietz 1-0
TACKLES — Ethan Lamm 6, Ethan Timmerman 5, Adam Drain 4, Dalton Shadle 4.
RUSHING — Alex Schultz 22-89 yards, Griffin Osing 7-46 yards, Brett Leshen 5-25 yards, Ryan Sarver 1-3 yards, Matt Baker 3-1 yards.
PASSING — Brett Leshen 1-8, 4 yards.
RECEIVING — Zach Hugen 1-4 yards.
INTERCEPTIONS — Shadow Leshen.
TACKLES — Sarver 12, Lehsen 8, Dalton Folkerts 8, Blake Lawless 6, Carter Isley 8.