By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — ALBIA — The second-ranked (Class 2A) Albia football team used an incredible defensive effort to defeat Mediapolis 7-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A playoffs.
In what was the ultimate example of a bend-but-don't break defense, the Blue Demons weathered a reinvigorated Mediapolis passing attack, to outlast a tough Bulldog team in the second half.
Albia came out strong at the start of the game on both sides of the ball. Alex Schultz, partly thanks to some excellent blocking by Albia, was able to ram his way up the middle for solid gains out of the backfield in the first quarter. Schultz eventually broke loose for a 20-yard run that landed the Blue Demons on Mediapolis' 28-yard line. Albia continued to march down the field on what up to that point had been an impressive drive. The Blue Demons had advanced all the way to the Bulldogs' 5-yard line when Mediapolis' defense bore down and stopped Albia from scoring on three-straight plays. The once promising drive ended in disappointment when Justin Bossard missed a 25-yard field goal.
Undeterred by the offensive set back, the Blue Demons' defense remained rock-solid. On the Bulldogs' next offensive series, linebacker Carter Isley sacked Mediapolis quarterback for a big loss. In the waning moments of the first quarter Albia fullback Griffin Osing bulled his way forward for an 18-yard gain to the Bulldogs' 3-yard line. Then, in the first play of the second quarter, Schultz rushed for a 3-yard touchdown to give Albia a 7-0 lead. Meanwhile, the Blue Demon defense continued to shut down the Bulldogs' offense. This time it was linebacker Hugh Sinclair who came through with a big sack. Moments later, Shadow Leshen delivered a ferocious hit to a Bulldog receiver on a screen pass for a 4-yard loss.
Albia's offense began to put together a nice drive with the some nice sweeps by quarterback Brett Leshen. The drive, however, was derailed when Brett Leshen was picked off by Cole Erickson. The Bulldogs took fired a couple of throws to the end zone on their last drive of the half, but the attempts rendered no results and the Blue Demons entered halftime with a 7-0 lead.
Mediapolis must have made some adjustments at halftime because their passing attack, which only accounted for only 29 yards in the first half, enjoyed significantly more success in the second half. Meanwhile, Albia's passing and running attack was rendered non-existent by Mediapolis' suffocating second-half defense. After recording nine first downs and 150 rushing yards in the first half, the Blue Demons were held to no first downs and only 14 yards on the ground in the second half.
Fortunately for Albia, the Blue Demon defense continued to play at a high caliber throughout the half. While Mediapolis passing game enjoyed more success in the second half, Albia's swarming defense continued to stuff the Bulldogs' running attack. Schultz, who suffered an ankle injury against Mid-Prairie in Albia's last game, went down and had to be helped off the field with less than a minute left in the third quarter. Fortunately, Schultz would return to the field at some point in the fourth quarter.
Mediapolis running back Drew Buster exploded up the middle for huge gain that advanced the Bulldogs from deep in Blue Demon territory to about mid-field in the fourth quarter. Then Drew Foster found Seth Bietz for a first down on Albia's 23-yard line. But, as they had done all game, the Albia defense came up with a pair of big plays to snatch the momentum back in the Blue Demons favor. First, Dalton Folkerts sacked Foster for a 15-yard loss. Then, on the very next play, Shadow Leshen picked off Foster's pass in the end zone.
Mediapolis had one more opportunity to score with one minute left in the fourth quarter. Mediapolis started the drive on the Blue Demons' 30-yard line. The pristine field position was the result of an Albia offensive series that went nowhere and forced the Blue Demons to punt from out of their own end zone. Albia's defense, however, was once again up to the task. Mediapolis' first three plays produced nothing and Bryce Leshen sealed the victory for Albia by sacking Foster on fourth down.
Albia will take on Waukon next Saturday in the Class 2A semifinals in Cedar Rapids.
Pekin falls to BGM in Class A quarterfinals
BROOKLYN - Jack Kline rushed 41 times for 195 yards and carried in all four touchdowns for second-ranked BGM, who eliminated District 6 rival Pekin from the postseason field on Friday. The Bears earned a return trip to the UNI-Dome with a 29-8 victory over the Panthers, giving BGM two wins in a three-week span over No. 10 Pekin.
Kline's first scoring run came after a safety against the Panthers and was followed by a fumbled kickoff return that set up a short field for Kline's four-yard run in the second quarter, opening up a 16-0 lead for BGM. Pekin quarterback Kolby Allsup's 33-yard touchdown run and two-point pass to Cade Millikin got the Panthers back within a score at 16-8, but a stop by the BGM defense and a 10-yard run by Kline right before halftime opened a 23-8 lead for BGM.
Kline polished off the Panthers with a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. Pekin hurt themselves with four turnovers in the contest, including two in BGM territory.
No. 2 BGM (12-0) advances to a UNI-Dome rematch Friday afternoon with Wapsie Valley, who scored a last-minute touchdown to advance to the Class A semifinals against Gladbrook-Reinbeck. No. 10 Pekin finishes the season with a record of 9-3.