Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The Regina football team isn’t used to playing must-win games in September, but it faced that unusual circumstance on Friday against South Hardin.
And thanks to kicker Michael Dunn, the Regals came through with a must-win on homecoming as he made a 25-yard field goal as time expired to secure a 22-19 victory.
“It felt good right when it left my foot,” Dunn said.
It felt even better when Dunn’s kick split the uprights to improve Regina’s records to 3-3 overall and 2-0 in district play.
South Hardin, which led 19-3 in the third quarter, fell to 2-4 and 1-1 in district play.
The score was even at 19-19 when Regina forced South Hardin to punt near midfield with less than 5 minutes to play.
The Regals took possession at their own 16-yard line and then drove to the South Hardin 9, setting the stage for Dunn’s game-winning kick.
Reserve running back Kieler Brown had a key 24-yard run on the drive that gave Regina a first-down at the South Hardin 16. Receiver Alec Wick also caught three passes on the drive that gained 26 yards.
Dunn, meanwhile, was on the sideline watching as the Regina offense marched down the field. He felt confident after having worked hard in practice to be ready for a moment like Friday.
“The coaches came over to me right when we got the ball and told me to start getting loose because we might need me,” Dunn said. “I was just thinking, every day I go out to practice and I do the same thing. I just did it like every day in practice.”
Dunn entered Friday’s game having made all 14 of his point-after kicks, but was just 1-for-2 in field-goal attempts.
“Honestly, it’s been fun to watch him because when he first got here, you know this is his first year kicking and he’s a great soccer player, but just the last three or four weeks you could just see the ball coming off his foot and it’s popping up in the air quickly,” said Regina head coach Marv Cook. “His kickoffs are stronger.
“So he’s just been doing an unbelievable job. He practices like a true professional. He really takes practice serious, and he is very disciplined. And he’s a great kid to be around as well.”
Regina had a number of players who impacted Friday’s game in a positive way, including sophomore Jack Goedken, who blocked two point-after kicks.
South Hardin also had a field goal blocked, so it missed out on five points with the kicking game.
“We brought a guy up, sophomore Jack Goedken, and he blocks two kicks for us and he actually tipped another one that went through,” Cook said. “Those are huge points.”
South Hardin led 13-3 at halftime despite only gaining 63 yards in the first two quarters. The Tigers scored the game’s first touchdown on a 70-yard pick six by defensive back Brayden Harris with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first quarter.
Running back Tanner Lawrence expanded the lead to 13-0 on a three-yard touchdown run with 10:57 left in the second quarter.
Regina finally got on the scoreboard when Dunn made a 29-yard field goal with 7:58 left in the second quarter.
“We needed to clean a lot of things up,” Cook said of his message at halftime. “There has been a lot of talk about guys being hurt and all that. So you just explain to them that that’s part of the game and they need to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves.
“And fortunately for us, our guys made enough big plays in the second half to get us back in it and get us up on top.”
South Hardin expanded its lead to 19-3 on a trick play midway through the third quarter.
Receiver Colton Haley took a handoff on what appeared to be a reverse, but instead of running, he threw a pass to quarterback Dalton Lake, who was alone in the flat. Lake then avoided two defenders near the sideline and scored from 26 yards.
However, the point-after kick was blocked by Goedken and that kept the deficit at 16 points, meaning it still was a two possession game.
Regina quarterback Bryce Barnett then scored on a 35-yard run with 3:16 left in the third quarter. Barnett also ran for the two-point conversion, trimming the deficit to 19-11.
Barnett scored his second touchdown on a two-yard run with 8:58 remaining. He again ran for the two-point conversion to even the score at 19.
Barnett was one of Regina’s top receivers until injuries to starting quarterback Ashton Cook and backup quarterback Jack Arndt forced the coaches to move Barnett to quarterback.
Barnett completed 14-of-21 passes for 143 yards in Friday’s game, while also rushing for 65 yards.
His favorite target was Wick, who caught 12 passes for 121 yards.
“It says that we have a lot of grit and we’re going to play two halves of football,” Barnett said of Friday's come-from-behind victory. “We might not have had the best first half, but we came out in the second half and gave it all we had. So it showed up in the end.”
Regina has been plagued by injuries throughout the season, and Friday’s game was no exception as starting running back and starting middle linebacker Nick Milder left the game in the second half with an apparent leg injury.
Kieler Brown replaced Milder and rushed for 79 yards on 15 carries in the second half.
“He’s got that little slasher kind of (running style) and he kind of gets lost in there a little bit, then he can come out the other side” Cook said of Brown, who is listed at 5-8 and 160 pounds. “I thought he did a great job of just staying with the double teams and trying to run behind his pads and always fall forward.”
Regina’s defense was effective throughout the game as South Hardin was held to 96 rushing yards and 49 passing yards.
The Tigers also had some costly penalties in the second half, including a personal foul that occurred on Regina’s game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Regina had three players – Brown, Barnett and Milder – who rushed for at least 64 yards and the Regals finished with 235 yards on the ground.
Cook has built Regina into one of the premier football powers in the state regardless of class with six state titles to his credit.
So for his team to have a losing record and facing a must-win in late September was highly unusual.
“It’s a lot different,” Wick said. “It’s tough, and it got tougher.”
Asked what the difference was in the second half, Wick said:
“We’re great at fighting back. It just shows we play with heart.”
Wick and Barnett were expected to be two of Regina’s top receivers this season, and they were for a while.
But now they’re learning to play with Barnett at quarterback, and if Friday’s game is an indication, they’re making progress.
“We all just have great team chemistry,” Wick said. “We have a special bond with each other.”
First downs: 9 22
Rushes-yards: 31-96 51-235
Passing yards: 23 143
Penalties-yards: 7-62 5-45
Fumbles-lost: 1-0 0-0
Punts-Avg: 4-30.5 0-0
South Hardin 7 6 6 0 – 19
Regina 0 3 8 11 – 22
SH – Brayden Harris 70 interception return (Waylen Butler kick)
SH – Tanner Lawrence 3 run (kick blocked)
ICR – Michael Dunn 29 FG
SH – Dalton Lake 26 pass from Colton Haley (kick blocked)
ICR – Bryce Barnett 35 run (Barnett run)
ICR – Bryce Barnett 2 run (Barnett run)
ICR – Dunn 25 FG
RUSHING – SH: Tanner Lawrence 21-94, Thain Friest 5-9, Dalton Lake 5-minus-7. ICR: Kieler Brown 15-79, Bryce Barnett 14-65, Nick Milder 13-64, Scott Blondin 5-15, Alec Wick 4-12.
Passing – SH: Dalton Lake 3-4-0 23, Colton Haley 1-1-0 26. ICR: Bryce Barnett 14-21-1 143
Receiving – SH: Dalton Lake 1-26, Colton Haley 1-13. ICR: Alec Wick 12-121, Kieler Brown 1-16, Nick Milder 1-6
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