Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – In a top-10 showdown of two of the best offensive teams in Class 1A it was a defensive play that proved to be the game changer.
Tanner Lukavsky returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown as sixth-ranked West Branch scored 26 unanswered points in a 26-6 win over No. 10 Cascade (5-3) on Friday at the Little Rose Bowl.
The interception return by Lukavsky gave West Branch a 13-6 second-quarter lead it would never give up as the Bears improved to 7-1 on the season and 3-1 in District 4 play.
“That was huge, huge,” West Branch coach Pedersen said of the interception return. “When we scored on that interception that really changed the complexion of the game. I think we started saying ‘hey we can do this’ and they started to question themselves.”
Beau Cornwell scored twice on quarterback sneaks and passed for 102 yards but it was the West Branch defense that ruled on Friday.
Cascade entered the game fourth in Class 1A averaging 411 total yards per contest and 10th in scoring at 35.7 points per game.
West Branch held the Cougars to a season-lows of six points and 102 total yards and forced three turnovers.
“They were really impressive,” Cornwell said of the West Branch defense. “I have all the faith in the world in them to make a stop when we needed it and they did all night. I’m proud of them.”
Perhaps the most impressive statistic for the Cascade offense this season was the 8 yards per play the Cougars were averaging coming into Friday night which ranked third in 1A.
Cascade averaged a paltry 1.9 yards per offensive snap on Friday.
“We didn’t really change anything up tonight we just stuck to what we had and we came together,” Lukavsky said. “We picked up the intensity.”
Cascade needed just 72 seconds to demonstrate just how dangerous it can be on offense.
The Cougars took the opening kickoff and went 70 yards in four plays, taking a 6-0 lead just 72 seconds into the game on a 27-yard scoring strike from senior quarterback Haris Hoffman to Logan Otting.
That was all the scoring the Cougars would do.
After that opening drive West Branch held Cascade to 32 total yards on 49 plays an average of less than .7 yards per snap.
“They played lights out,” Pedersen said of his defense. “We made some adjustments on defense we really went after them and I thought after the first quarter we were flat as a pancake. It was maybe too much emotion because it was senior night but I think the bottom line is what do you do the last three quarters and we just really played a good football game.”
West Branch pulled even at 6-6 when Cornwell dove into the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback sneak on 4th and goal with 4:31 left in the first half.
Lukavsky changed the game less than a minute later.
The junior linebacker picked off a Hoffman pass on the second play of the ensuing Cascade drive and went 37 yards untouched down the sideline to give the Bears a 13-6 lead going into halftime.
“I saw the quarterback rolling out so I came up and I saw a shallow route in the flats and I think he wanted to throw it over me but he threw it right to me,” Lukavsky said. “Nobody was in my sight when I caught it.”
West Branch put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Drake Bloem blocked a punt to set the Bears up with good field position at the Cascade 32 yard line with 11:45 left.
Six plays later Cornwell bulled into the end zone from three yards out on a quarterback sneak to make it 19-6 with 9:13 left.
Lukavsky would cap the scoring and clinch the game with a 37-yard touchdown run with 3:50 left.
“I just thought we out-hit them,” Pedersen said. “I thought late in the game we wore them out. We took the ball down the field and I thought we wore them out.”
West Branch kept its district title hopes alive with the win while Cascade had a three-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 3-1 in district play.
The Cougars travel to District 4 lead Bellevue next Friday. A Cascade win would force a three-way tie atop the district leaving the opportunity for West Branch to claim the top spot via tie-breaker scenarios.
“It was huge because we knew we had to win to get in the playoffs,” Cornwell said. “They are a good team we just came out hot in the second half and kept rolling on what we did in the second quarter.”
First downs 12 11
Rushes-yards 35-130 28-51
Comp-Att-Int 17-27-0 10-25-2
Passing yards 102 94
Total yards 232 102
Punts-Avg. 5-37.8 6-35.8
Fumbles-lost 1-0 4-1
Penalties-yards 8-80 10-110
CAS – Logan Otting 27 pass from Haris Hoffman (Kick failed)
WB – Beau Cornwell 1 run (Kick failed)
WB – Tanner Lukavsky 37 interception return (Cornwell kick)
WB – Cornwell 3 run (Kick failed)
WB – Lukavsky 37 run (Cornwell kick)
RUSHING – WB: Tanner Lukavsky 17-88, Beau Cornwell 10-38, Wyatt Goodale 2-20, Wyatt Hamby 1-0, Brett Schiele 1-(-3), Trey Eagle 2-(-9), Team 2-(-4). CAS: Colby Holmes 6-18, Haris Hoffman 4-18, Derick Koppes 5-18, Jackson Knepper 3-4, Brett Bower 1-4, Team 1-(-11).
PASSING – WB: Beau Cornwell 17-27-0 102. CAS: Haris Hoffman 10-26-2 94.
RECEIVING – WB: Brett Schiele 6-42, Wyatt Goodale 3-27, Tanner Lukavsky 4-17, Zach Thompson 2-8, Brady Lukavsky 1-4, Trey Eagle 1-4. CAS: Logan Otting 4-76, Reid Rausch 2-9, Alex Aitchison 2-8, Brett Bower 2-1.
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