By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — ALBIA — The Albia football team overcame swamp-like conditions, a bountiful supply of rainfall and a feisty opponent to pick up its first ever playoff victory.
The Blue Demons 29-6 win over the Louisa-Muscatine in the Class 2A playoffs marked yet another chapter in what has already been a storybook season. The rain-soaked field did nothing to slow down Albia's running game, as the Blue Demons rushed for 337 yards on 54 carries. Albia's imposing running attack was spearheaded by Alex Schultz, who rushed for 218 yards on 33 carries.
"This feels great," Schultz said. "It's what we've been aiming for all year, so it's nice to finally see it come true."
When asked what made his team's run game so impressive, Schultz was ready with an answer.
"I'd say definitely our lineman and getting really good read blocks from our fullback and wingback just made it really easy to get a lot of yards," he said.
"Well, we have a varied offense," Albia coach Jerry Staton added. "We can throw the ball, we can run the ball and on a night like this the run was there. It's a power game that we have and he [Schultz] is a big strong, powerful runner."
The game started late after lightning forced play to begin after the scheduled starting time. When the lightning had ceased, however, an abundance of hard rainfall continued to blanket the field and everything around it. Because the inclement weather made passing the ball extremely difficult, both teams leaned heavily on their run games.
This formula worked well for both squads, as each team ended up running for over 300 yards. Blake Kemp was at the vanguard of the Falcons' success, as he ran for 180 yards on 14 carries. Kemp was complemented by fellow running back Brandon Tomer, who rushed for 99 yards on 24 carries.
"These guys [Louisa-Muscatine] run the double wing and there's a lot of motion and on every play; there are four backs who could get the ball," Staton said. "So it's very deceptive and very deceiving. They ran it well and they had the perfect field for it — this mushy, wet field we had. So we had to come back and really play hard to get it under control."
Things didn't go swimmingly for the Blue Demons to start the game. For one thing, the downpour made it extremely hard for either team to hang onto the ball: Each team suffered from a pair of Mother Nature-induced fumbles that were recovered by their opponents. The Falcons were able to land the first stiff blow of the night when Austin Bohling ran for a 5-yard touchdown. The Blue Demon defense, however, was able to bear down and prevent the Falcons' from scoring on their two-point conversion attempt.
Albia put together a drive of its own near the end of the first quarter — a number of strong runs by Schultz landed the Blue Demons on Louisa-Muscatine's 4-yard line. Moments later, Schultz took the handoff and plowed his way into the end zone. After Brenden Bassett kicked the extra point, Albia had secured its first lead of the game at 7-6.
While the Falcons continued to generate offense, mostly on runs by Kemp and Tomer; they were never able to get back into the end zone. Every time Louisa-Muscatine looked like they were about to score, the Blue Demon defense would come through with a huge defensive stand.
Albia's second scoring drive, which occurred in the second quarter, was spearheaded by its quarterback Brett Leshen. First Leshen scurried for a 13-yard game that left the Blue Demons with a first down on Louisa-Muscatine's 31-yard line. Then, a few plays later, Leshen raced 25 yards for a touchdown on a quarterback keeper that gave his team a 14-6 lead with 7:44 left in the half.
The Falcons responded to the touchdown with an impressive drive of their own. But, after Louisa-Muscatine had marched deep into Blue Demon territory, Albia's defense bore down and stopped the Falcons from getting a first down on four straight plays, forcing Louisa-Muscatine to surrender the ball to the Blue Demons on their own 11-yard line.
Neither team was able to put any points on the board in the third quarter until Leshen connected with Zach Hugan for a 19-yard touchdown with 1:55 left in the third quarter to make it 21-6. Schultz added to Albia's lead in the fourth quarter when he ran for a 69-yard touchdown. It was a magnificent run that featured Schultz patiently finding seams, evading would-be tacklers and following his blockers on his way toward the end zone.
Although they were unable convert on the extra point, the touchdown upped Albia's lead to 27-6. The Falcons' problems were further compounded when Collin Bieri was tackled in his end one for a safety that grew Albia's lead to 29-6.
"I told them I was very proud of them because they had to take down a very tough opponent," Staton said. "I'm proud of the way they play.They are very sportsmanlike in the way they play. We don't cheap shot, we don't jabber at the people. There are lots of ways of winning and it's not always on the scoreboard and our kids are winners not just on the scoreboard and I'm proud of that and want that to continue."
Albia (10-0) plays Mid-Prairie (8-2) Monday in Albia in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs.
Albia 29, Louisa-Muscatine 6
Loui 6 0 0 0 — 29
Albi 7 7 7 0 — 6
Scoring By Quarters
LM — Austin Bohling 5-yard run (two-point conversion no good), 7:15.
Albia — Alex Schultz 4-yard run (Brenden Bassett kick), 1:22.
Albia — Brett Leshen 25-yard run (Bassett kick), 7:44.
Albia— 19-yard catch by Zach Hugan from Leshen (Justin Bossard kick), 1:55.
Albia — Schultz 69-yard touchdown (Bossard kick no good), 6:35.
Albia — Louisa-Muscatine's Collin Bieri tackled in the end zone, safety, 4:49.
First downs 19 12
Rushes-yards 54-337 52-302
Passing yards 29 0
Total Yards 366 302
Comp-Att-Int 6-2-1 2-0-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 6-2
Penalties-Yds 1-10 8-47
RUSHING — Blake Kemp 14-180 yards, Brandon Tomer 24-99 yards, Ryland Crawford 4-18, Austin Bohling 8-8, Isacc Hayse 1-7 yards, Collin Bieri 1-(-) 10 yards.
PASSING — Austin Bohling 0-2 yards.
INTERCEPTIONS — Tevin Hernandez.
RUSHING — Alex Schultz 33-218 yards, Griffin Osing 14-69 yards, Brett Leshen 7-50 yards.
PASSING —Brett Leshen 2-29 yards.
RECEIVING — Zach Hugan 1-19, Griffin Osing 1-10 yards.