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CEDAR FALLS – In the postseason it is just about surviving and advancing.
Regina has been heavy on the survival part of that equation during its latest playoff run but the Regals just keep advancing.
For the second time in three weeks Regina (10-2) watched potential game-winning, season-ending field goals sail wide as the Regals returned to the state title game for the eighth straight season with a 37-35 win over No. 3 Pella Christian (11-1) on Saturday in a Class 1A semifinal at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“We got some breaks that went our way but we just tried to go out there and execute,” Regina senior Michael Conlon said. “Survive and advance.”
Regina won its playoff opener in double overtime after South Winneshiek missed a game-winning 22-yard field goal wide left in the first overtime.
Pella Christian missed two potential game winners in the final two minutes on Saturday, including a 29-yarder that was wide right by the narrowest of margins with two minutes remaining.
“It’s pretty nerve wracking standing out there with the fate of the game on a field goal but it’s really exciting,” Regina senior Jake Phillips said. “It’s pretty unreal the way its gone but we’re obviously happy to still be playing.”
Conlon passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 95 yards and a score as Regina won its 10th straight state semifinal.
Pella Christian scored the final 14 points of the game and had a chance to make its first ever state semifinal appearance a win but Nathan De Bruin missed a 29-yard field goal wide right and left a 47-yarder short with under a minute to play.
“To me it was an instant classic,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “It was a great football game and fortunately for us we were able to come up on the high side of the scoreboard.”
Regina has won 10 straight since opening the season with back-to-back losses to 3A semifinalists Cedar Rapids Xavier and Solon.
Fourth-ranked Regina will try to win its seventh title in the past eight years when it faces No. 2 Van Meter (12-0) in the 1A championship on Friday at 11 a.m.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Phillips said. “Everyone has been counting us out and we probably weren’t favored in that game and I think we keep making statements that we are a very good football team and we just need to keep improving and working hard.”
Regina rolled up 524 yards of offense but needed to sweat out a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Eagles.
Freshman quarterback Ashton Cook passed for 118 yards in spot duty and gave Regina a 37-21 lead when he connected with Jayden Kies on an 88-yard touchdown pass with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
Pella Christian scored on its next two drives, cutting the lead to 37-35 on a 1-yard Noah Treimer run with 5:39 left.
The Eagles got the ball back less than 90 seconds later when Hayden Vroom picked off a Conlon pass and returned it to the Regina 21 yard line.
Regina held Pella Christian to a 29-yard field goal attempt and De Bruin had his kick sail just wide.
The Eagles forced a 3-and-out and got the ball back but could only muster one first down and a 49-yarder by De Bruin was short.
“When I see kids playing as hard as they can on both sides of the ball to me that’s a game you can’t lose,” Cook said. “You might not win it but you can’t lose it and that’s’ honestly the way I feel about it.”
The Conlon-led Regina offense bounced back from a sloppy start that saw the Regals first three possession produce -19 yards and two turnovers.
Pella Christian led 7-0 when Colten Uitermarkt recovered a Regina fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
Regina scored touchdowns on its next two drives on a 14-yard strike from Conlon to Phillips and a 16-yard run by Isaac Vollstedt.
The Regals took their first lead at 21-14 when Conlon hit Kies for a 77-yard touchdown pass.
Conlon gave Regina a 28-21 halftime lead by capping a 5-play, 77-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run.
The senior finished 13-of-18 passing for 263 yards..
“I thought Mike played extremely well especially because we had eight days to get ready and our first two drives were just horrendous and credit Pella Christian but we couldn’t have done any worse than we did the first two drives,” Cook said. “I thought Mike settled in and made some really good plays for us.”
First Downs 17 16
Rushes-Yards 37-143 38-180
Comp-Att-Int 15-21-2 15-26-0
Passing Yards 381 202
Punts-Avg. 2-45.5 6-42.3
Fumbles-Lost 5-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 4-33 4-25
Regina 14 14 9 0 – 37
Pella Christian 14 7 7 7 – 35
PC – Colten Uitermarkt 0 fumble return (Nathan De Bruin kick)
ICR – Jake Phillips 14 pass from Michael Conlon (Isaac Vollstedt kick)
PC – Noah Treimer 72 run (De Bruin kick)
ICR – Vollstedt 16 run (Vollstedt kick)
ICR – Jayden Kies 77 pass from Conlon (Vollstedt kick)
PC – Sam Brouwer 26 pass from Hayden Vroom (De Bruin kick)
ICR – Conlon 9 run (Vollstedt kick)
ICR – Vollstedt 46 field goal
ICR – Kies 88 pass from Ashton Cook (Vollstedt kick)
PC – Vroom 12 run (De Bruin kick)
PC – Treimer 1 run (De Bruin kick)
RUSHING – ICR: Michael Conlon 11-95, Isaac Vollstedt 19-61, Jake Phillips 3-3, Ryan Schott 1-3, Ashton Cook 1-(-5), Team 2-(-14). PC: Noah Treimer
PASSING – ICR: Michael Conlon 13-18-2 263, Ashton Cook 2-3-0 118. PC: Hayden Vroom 15-25-0 202, Noah Treimer 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING – ICR: Jake Phillips 6-123, Jayden Kies 2-165, Alec Wick 5-82, Scott Arndt 1-11, Isaac Vollstedt 1-0. PC: Sam Brouwer 5-104, Nathan De Bruin 3-38, Kyle Fynaardt 2-20, Noah Treimer 4-10, Jayden Huisman 1-30.