CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – We will see you next week; West Hancock punches their ticket to its second title game in three years with a victory over East Buchanan, 37-0
A slow start for the West Hancock offense was jumped started when sophomore quarterback Mitchell Smith hit junior Rylan Barnes on a 36-yard pass play that was wide-open. Barnes says they need to keep defenses honest.
West Hancock added the two-point play to go up 8-0.
Before that play, the Eagles had punted twice and recorded just 15 total yards of offense, and it came with just six seconds left in the first quarter. EB’s first drive went 27-yards on eight plays ending in a punt and helped out by two West Hancock neutral zone infractions. But other than that, to open the game, neither team ran more than three offensive plays per drive in the first quarter.
The second quarter saw more defensive dominance, but instead of short drives, both teams sustained a long drive each – both of which ended with turnovers on downs. EB’s went nine plays, and they marched 51 yards using three minutes of the clock. Rylan Barnes made a drive-killing tackle on fourth and three to go.
West Hancock’s was 12 plays long, and they traveled 56 yards in six minutes and thirty-eight seconds. The drive was stopped on an incomplete pass from Smith to cousin Kellen Smith.
East Buchanan ended the half on offense, though unlike early in the game when they tried to exploit the West Hancock secondary, throwing back-to-back deep pass plays – one of which was complete – the Buccaneers ran the remnants of the clock out, and the Eagles took a one-score lead into halftime. Coach Sanger was happy the Eagles could take the lead into halftime.
West Hancock had 27 more yards in the air in the first two quarters than on the ground. Matthew Francis joked after the game that it probably hasn’t happened much but also said it was good to change things up.
From the opening kick of the second half, the rout was on. West Hancock marched its first drive 68-yards on ten plays, and Matthew Francis plunged into the end zone.
Francis had three second-half touchdowns helping the Eagles fly away from East Buchanan. But it wasn’t just their play on offense; the Eagles defense – which has been among the best in the state (all classes) – didn’t budge. Francis made a good point, “if they don’t score, they can’t win.”
Francis mentioned the play in the third quarter when EB’s Keaton Kelly threw a 64-yard bomb to Hunter Bowers. Extra hustle by Logan Leerar kept the Buccaneers out of the end zone but gave them first and goal – three yards from paydirt. The Eagles had other plans, and they stopped EB on four straight plays to force a turnover on downs, left the game 24-0 Eagles. They added another touchdown the next driving, going 88 yards on 12 plays to make it 31-0.
Rylan Barnes finished the game just as he started the game, though on defense, not offense. He sealed it with a pick-6 he took back from 43-yards out.
The Eagles will be making their second trip to the title game in three years, winning the title over Grundy Center in 2019. Grundy Center is a possibility for the Eagles to play again – either them or Woodbury Central. The Spartans have lost the last two Class A title games, falling to Iowa City Regina in 2020 after beating West Hancock in the quarterfinals.
Coach Sanger gives credit to the athletes.
The Class A championship will take place next Thursday at 1:00 PM from the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. KIOW will have the game live with Jay Hiscocks and Kevin Wilson on the call.
Full interviews. Note – interviews were done with multiple reporters.