ALBIA – The Albia football team played host to fourth-ranked (2A) West Marshall on Friday in the scheduled regular-season finale for the Blue Demons.
The Trojans improved to 7-1 on the season, wrapping up the Class 2A, District 6 title with a 53-8 win at Iron Man Field. West Marshall secured home field advantage throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs and will face a familiar foe next Friday to both the Trojans and Blue Demons as Albia's Highway 5 rival, Centerville, returns to West Marshall for a playoff rematch after losing 60-0 in the second round of last year's Class 2A state football tournament.
West Marshall started with a flurry at Albia. Joey Tollefson returned the opening kickoff 63 yards, setting the Trojans up on the Blue Demon 22-yard line.
Three plays later, all rushes by Preston Pope, West Marshall would take the ball into the end zone over the left side. Pope would add the two-point conversion run, giving the Trojans an 8-0 lead just 79 seconds into the game.
Albia would field the kickoff, but fumble the first play from scrimmage, giving West Marshall the ball 18 yards from the end zone. Even after a penalty pushed the Trojans back to the 23, Pope would carry the ball back across the goal line on three more runs, gaining all 41 yards and scoring the first 14 points of the game before Peyton Hart added West Marshall's second straight two-point conversion run, giving the Trojans a 16-0 lead just over three minutes after the opening kickoff.
Albia would regroup and put together a sustained drive, pushing the ball down the field. Garin Grinstead connected on a 23-yard pass to Landon Simpson, a 12-yard pass to Drew Robinson and an eight-yard rocket to Wyatt Beckwith while Gage Oddo added a 12-yard run, moving Albia into the red zone.
The drive would stall at the West Marshall 18. Conner Fisher looked to put Albia on the board with a 36-yard field goal attempt, only to have the kick blocked by the Trojans to preserve the 16-0 lead.
West Marshall, starting on their own side of the field for the first time, would again march down the gridiron on eight straight runs including two more carries by Pope for 17 yards. Parker Reese added three carries for 22 yards and Hart would keep it three times for 43 yards, scoring on a three-yard touchdown up the middle before adding his second two-point conversion run giving the Trojans a commanding 24-0 lead.
Going into the second quarter, Albia would go three and out and punt the ball away. The Trojans would be backed up on an unsportsmanlike penalty, but would make up that ground and then some as Hart dashed up the middle on 2nd-and-25 for a 66-yard touchdown, adding another two-point run to put West Marshall up 32-0 with 10:09 to go in the first half.
Both teams would have drives that would stall as the second quarter unfolded. With 1:20 to go, West Marshall would benefit from a pair of Albia penalties to add a fifth touchdown run as Reese would find the end zone for the first time from six yards out. Hart added a fourth straight two-point conversion, sending West Marshall into the half with a 40-0 lead.
Albia would have a promising drive stall out after a pair of holding penalties. The Blue Demons would again fumble deep in their own territory, allowing West Marshall to drive just 11 yards in two plays and 57 seconds as Antonio McKinney pushed the ball across the goal line, putting the Trojans up 47-0 after a point-after kick by Hart.
West Marshall continued to run the ball with an assortment of carriers. Seth Larson would become the fifth Trojan player to score on a touchdown run, going in from 23 yards out with 9:40 left opening a 53-0 lead over the Blue Demons.
Albia would end district play on a positive note, forcing a turnover after Blake Stewart stripped the ball from West Marshall with 4:17 left, setting up Albia on the 35-yard line. Grintead would run for a first down on 3rd-and-10, moving the chains before finding Drew Robinson in the back of the endzone on a 25-yard touchdown pass. Khadis Khadisov would run the ball up the middle for the two-point conversion.
Albia (1-7, 0-5) could use this momentum to help the Blue Demons finish out the 2021 season on a winning note. Despite not qualifying for the playoffs, Albia has scheduled a ninth game that will be held on Friday night at Iron Man Field against Clarion-Goldfield-Dows (3-5). Kickoff in Albia is set for 7 p.m.