Second-half Rally Lifts Williamsburg Past Short-handed Regina

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Pat Harty

Your Prep Sports

WILLIAMSBURG – Marv Cook has experienced the highest of highs as the Regina football coach, so Friday’s circumstance had to feel almost surreal.

The Regals had just lost to Williamsburg 37-17 to fall to 1-3 on the season, and were down to their third-string quarterback as Cook huddled with his players and assistant coaches near midfield after the game.

The sound of the Williamsburg victory bell echoed in the background as Cook provided words of encouragement to his team, although, he seemed oblivious to any outside distractions.

Cook’s only concern was the morale of his players because they were hurting both physically and mentally after being outscored 27-0 in the second half.

“I didn’t even notice it,” Cook said of the victory bell ringing in the background. “The one thing I’ve told a Regina team from 12 years ago to 10 years ago to eight years ago, it doesn’t matter, they will never lose as long as they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do and prepared and worked hard and trained. We didn’t win tonight, and I’ll live with that. I can live with that. And they need to be able to live with that because that’s just life.

“Sometimes, you’re going to give everything you’ve got and you’re going to be out-manned. I thought our kids competed and fought.”

Regina already was short-handed with starting quarterback Ashton Cook, who is Marv’s son, out indefinitely with a foot injury.

Backup quarterback Scott Arndt, who also starts on defense, was having a solid all-around game when he was injured early in the third quarter with the score even at 17-17. Arndt suffered a head injury after throwing an incomplete pass and being hit hard.

“We initially were thinking it might be a chest injury or a chest contusion or something,” Cook said. “But then he was going through the protocol.”

Regina’s offense unraveled without Arndt behind center. The defense also struggled without Arndt, who had a key interception in Williamsburg territory late in the second quarter.

“He was all over, he was doing a good job,” Cook said of Arndt, who completed 9-of-20 passes for 110 yards, while also rushing for 32 yards in a little over one half.

Senior Patrick Clark replaced Arndt at quarterback and gained seven and 10 yards on his first two carries, but the drive eventually stalled.

Fellow senior Bryce Barnett, who caught two touchdown passes from Arndt in the first half, also was given a chance at quarterback after the offense had sputtered with Clark behind center. Barnett completed 2-of-4 passes for 35 yards, including a 24-yard pass to Clark.

However, Barnett and Clark are two of Regina’s best receivers, so when one has to play quarterback, the offense loses a key weapon.

“I thought Patrick Clark’s performance was one of the great high school performances,” Cook said. “He ran hard. He caught it. He threw it. And defensively, he was playing the end position.

“And Bryce the same way. Bryce had two touchdowns in the first half and threw the ball extremely well when we asked him to did it. So I felt good about those guys throwing to each other, whether it was Bryce to Patrick or Patrick to Bryce.”  

Clark isn’t a stranger to the quarterback position, but he is more valuable to the Regina offense catching passes. He also plays a key role at defensive end.

“He’s played it before at the fresh-soph level and he did a good job running,” Cook said of the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Clark playing quarterback. “He throws the ball okay, but he’s such a dynamic receiver.”

Regina scored the game’s first points on a 22-yard field goal by Michael Dunn with 6 minutes 25 seconds left in the first quarter.

Joey Molony helped set up the field goal by intercepting a deflected pass on Williamsburg’s first offensive play from scrimmage. His interception gave Regina a first down at the Williamsburg 35-yard line.

The Raiders answered quickly, however, as they drove 71 yards for a touchdown on just four plays. Receiver Kaden Wetjen sparked the drive with a 48-yard reception.

Running back Gage Hazen-Fabor then capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run with 5:25 left in the first quarter.

Williamsburg expanded the lead to 10-3 on a 25-yard field goal by Leighton jones with 2:13 left in the opening quarter.  Hazen-Fabor helped set up the field goal by returning a punt 37 yards to the Regina 15.

But then Regina countered with Barnett’s two touchdown catches in the second quarter, giving the Regals a 17-10 lead at halftime.

“I thought defensively we were good in the first half,” Cook said. “We gave them the big bubble for 40 yards that gave them a touchdown eventually, and the punt return of 37 yards, that set them up for the field goal. So other than that, I thought defensively we were pretty good.”

Regina’s lead vanished quickly as Williamsburg took the opening kick of the third quarter and marched 61 yards for a touchdown on six plays. Hazen-Fabor capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run. He also had runs of 25 and five yards on the drive and finished the game with 215 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

“That was shocking,” Cook said of Williamsburg’s scoring drive to start the third quarter. “I wasn’t ready for that. We wanted to challenge them to get a three-and-out, a four-and-out, a five-and-out or whatever and be in good field position and have a chance to get another score there and put the game away.”

With the depleted Regina offense struggling to gain yards in the second half, Williamsburg took advantage by scoring 27 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters.

Wetjen expanded Williamsburg’s lead to 30-17 by catching a 47-yard touchdown pass from Martin on the first play of the fourth quarter. Wetjen finished the game with six catches for 138 receiving yards.

Fullback Mathyan Powell completed the scoring by bursting through a huge hole up the middle and racing 25 yards for a touchdown with 2:37 left to play.

The Raiders improved to 1-3 on the season, but still have a chance to make the Class 2A playoffs as they enter district play as one of the strongest teams in their district.

Williamsburg finished runner-up in the Class 2A playoffs last season.

Regina is also still in the hunt for yet another playoff berth as it enters district play next Friday. The Regals also finished runner-up in the Class 1A playoffs last season and have won six state titles under Cook, who was critical of himself after Friday’s loss.

“Honestly, I’m putting a lot of this on me,” Cook said. “We’re 17-10 at halftime but we made bunch of mistakes coaching wise. We had ten guys on the field on a special-teams play. We had 12 guys break the huddle one time with a formation that we went with.

“We’re not communicating well enough, sand that comes to me as the head coach. And those are two plays that you can’t get back. We burn a timeout and take a five-yard penalty and start a drive at first-and-15.”

Despite Regina’s dominance over the years, Cook knew this year’s schedule could be brutal. Regina’s other two losses were against Class 3A power Cedar Rapids Xavier and Class 1A power Pella Christian.

“When the schedule came out and you saw Pella Christian and you saw Williamsburg and you saw Xavier, I honestly thought we could be 1-3 or 2-2 and still be sitting in a good position,” Cook said. “But the key for us is just making sure our kids don’t get their heads down.”

                              ICR            WB

First downs              17               21

Rushes-yards        45-131        35-269

Passing yards        142             198

Punts/average        4-27.5        1-30

Penalties/yards      5-45            5-40

Fumbles-lost           3-0              2-1

Regina                3   14   0    0  –  17

Williamsburg   10   0  14  13  –  37

ICR – Michael Dunn 22 FG

WB – Gage Hazen-Fabor 8 run (Leighton Jones kick)

WB – Jones 25 FG

ICR – Bryce Barnett 10 pass from Scott Arndt (Dunn kick)

ICR – Barnett 9 pass from Arndt (Dunn kick)

WB – Hazen-Fabor 3 run (Jones kick)

WB – Hazen-Fabor 4 run (Jones kick)

WB – Kaden Wetjen 47 pass from Jordan martin (kick failed)

WB – Mathyan Powell 25 run (Jones kick)

Individual statistics

RUSHING – ICR: Kieler Brown 3-36, Scott Arndt 11-32, Scott Blondin 11-25, Alex Wick 7-24, Patrick Clark 7-20, Levi Quinlan 1-4, Nick Milder 3-3, Luke Burlage 2-minus-6, Bryce Barnett 2-minus-7, Nick Hein 1-minus-6. WB: Gage Hazen-Fabor 28-215, Mathyan Powell 5-48, Kaden Wetjen 2-6.

PASSING – ICR: Scott Arendt 9-20-0 110, Bryce Barnett 2-4-0 35, Patrick Clark 1-1-0 (-3). WB: Jordan Martin 9-15-2 198

RECEIVING – ICR: Bryce Barnett 5-52, Patrick Clark 2-35, Alex Wick 3-9, Kieler Brown 1-34, Nick Milder 1-12. WB: Kaden Wetjen 6-138, Garrett Jensen 1-27, Gage Hazen-Fabor 1-18, Nicholas Goodell 1-15.

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