Regina Hangs on to Edge Mediapolis 23-19 in Class 1A Opener

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Photo by Rob Howe

Pat Harty

Your Prep Sports 

Mediapolis – The playoffs are all about surviving and advancing and Regina accomplished both of those things against Mediapolis on Friday.

Barely.

Regina quarterback Ashton Cook scored on a 3-yard run with 9 minutes, 4 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Regals followed that with a key defensive stand and another offensive series in which they melted more than 5 minutes off the clock while hanging on to win 23-19 in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.

Regina was trailing 19-17 when Cook scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. His touchdown capped a nine-play, 66-yard drive that came right after Mediapolis junior Josh Darbyshire had returned a kick 95 yards for a touchdown.

“It was ugly at times, offensively and defensively and special teams, and when we needed to at the end, we made some plays and were able to move the chains and then lock it down,” said Regina head coach Marv Cook, who is Ashton Cook’s father. “And then defensively, they got into the red zone a couple times in the second half, but we kept them out, which is huge obviously.”

Regina, which didn’t qualify for the playoffs last season, improved to 8-2 and will face long-time rival West Branch (10-0) in the second round next Friday in West Branch, while Mediapolis ended the season with an 8-2 record.

Regina struggled to contain the two-headed ground attack of quarterback Briar Johnson and running back Klay Foster, who finished with 100 and 79 rushing yards, respectively.

The Bulldogs also intercepted two of Ashton Cook’s passes and nearly had two more interceptions on a chilly, rainy night.

Marv Cook huddled with his players after the game and praised them for finding a way to win under tough circumstances.

“They’re a great football team,” Marv Cook said of Mediapolis. “I was really impressed and the more I watched them on film I really liked them. They’re tough kids. We were lucky to have it.”

Regina also created some of its luck, including getting Mediapolis to jump off sides three times on fourth down. Each penalty came after Regina had shifted out of its formation, and each penalty resulted in a first down, including on the drive that ended with Ashton Cook scoring the game-winning touchdown.

“A lot of teams have really been trying to hone in on our cadence and we were kind of methodical a little but, so we just kind of added something, a little shifting with our offense to try and make sure that teams aren’t just teeing up and pinning their ears back,” Marv Cook said.

Ashton Cook completed two huge passes to Alec Wick on third down on the final drive of the game to help run out the clock.

“We have our timing down with a lot of routes and it helps us out,” said Wick, who finished with four catches for 43 yards.

Mediapolis was aggressive on defense, especially against the pass.

Darbyshire often lined up just feet away from Wick at the line of scrimmage rather than give any cushion, and the strategy worked for the most part.

“He was pressing me more,” Wick said. “He’s a great cornerback. But we just took advantage of it.”

With the passing game sputtering in the wet conditions, Regina turned to its ground game for help.

Junior Theo Kolie gained 98 yards on 17 carries and his 2-yard touchdown plunge gave Regina a 17-13 lead with 1:21 left in the third quarter.

The lead didn’t last long, though, as Darbyshire returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.

Regina finished with 187 rushing yards, including 23 yards from Wick, who normally plays receiver. All of Wick’s carries came in the second half.

“I knew it was going to be kind of part of the game plan a little bit,” Wick said of running. “Not as much, but a little bit.”

Kolie gained 16 and 24 yards, respectively, on his first two carries of the game.

“The line was giving us great holes and we just had to fight through it,” Kolie said. “These guys were a great team and we just had to go out there and work hard.”

Regina was trailed 7-0 when Ashton Cook connected with Wick for a 12-yard yard touchdown pass with 10:38 left in the second quarter. Michael Dunn converted the point-after kick to even the score at 7.

Dunn also made a 39-yard field with 18 seconds left in the second quarter to give Regina a 10-7 lead at halftime.

Junior Josh Dutchik led Regina with 64 receiving yards on four catches. He caught a 35-yard pass late in the third quarter on the first play of what proved to be Regina’s game-winning touchdown

And now the much-anticipated showdown with who is arguably Regina’s biggest rival is up next.

West Branch, which is coached by Butch Pedersen, advanced by defeating North Linn 23-0 in its first round game on Friday.

“It’ll be a tough battle,” Wick said. “They’re a great team. It’ll just be hard fought.”

Marv Cook graduated from West Branch where he was a multi-sport star in the 1980s.

“It’s 8.9 miles, I know that because we jogged it in track practice,” Marv Cook said of the distance between the two schools. “Obviously, it’s two great football programs.

“Coach Pedersen has been amazing. The history there is phenomenal, and obviously, they’ve got a great football team again this year. They’re great in all three phases.”

                           ICR                MEPO

First downs               15                       13

Rushes-yards         43-187              36-179

Passing yards         130                        71

Fumbles-lost             0-0                       1-0

Punts-avg.               1-47.0                 2-37.0

Penalties-yards       4-20                   8-50

Regina           0   10   7   6  –  23

Mediapolis     7   0   12   0  – 19

MED – Klay Foster 4 run (Drew Zurmuehlen kick)

ICR – Alec Wick 12 pass from Ashton Cook (Michael Dunn kick)

ICR – Dunn 39 FG

MED – Briar Johnson 6 run (Kick failed)

ICR – Theo Kolie 2 run (Dunn kick)

MED – Josh Darbyshire 95 kick return (Kick blocked)

ICR – Ashton Cook 3 run (Pass failed)

Individual statistics

RUSHING – ICR: Theo Kolie 18-98, Ashton Cook 10-36, Levi Quinlan 13-30, Alec Wick 4-23. MED: Briar Johnson 20-100, Klay Foster 15-79.

PASSING – ICR: Ashton Cook 11-25-2 130. MED: Briar Johnson 5-7-0 71

RECEIVING – ICR: Josh Dutchik 4-64, Alec Wick 4-43, Nick Hein 2-26, Levi Quinblas 1-3. MED: Josh Darbyshire 4-60, Owen Timmerman 1-11.

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