By Chris Kurz | Photos by Matthew Putney
CEDAR FALLS — Van Meter took an early lead and capitalized on a big-play defense to win the Class 1A state championship in Iowa on Friday, overtaking West Sioux 35-7.
The Bulldogs, who also beat the Falcons for the championship game last season (17-14), got two pick-six interceptions — one by Aydn Netten and one by John Braun.
The Van Meter defense intercepted Falcon quarterback Dylan Wiggins four times. Wiggins had an incredible season, completing nearly 71 percent of his passes for 31 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
It is the third state championship in school history for the Bulldogs, having won their first in 2017.
Quarterback Ben Gilliland was steady for Van Meter, completing 7 of 12 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. The highlight was a 61-yarder to Netten. Gilliland also ran for 62 yards on 10 carries.
Van Meter marched 88 yards on his opening drive. Gilliland connected for 18 yards with his favorite red-zone target, Carter Durflinger, topping a 13-play, 88-yard drive.
Durflinger came into the game with just 15 catches, seven of which were for touchdowns. He had three catches for 46 yards in the game that went along with his TD catch.
Gilliland then rushed three yards down the middle on a planned QB run to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead on their next drive.
West Sioux drove to the Van Meter 35 in the closing minutes of the first half, but the drive stalled when Dylan Wiggins was intercepted by Gordon at the 1-yard line.
The Bulldogs beat the Falcons 176-57 and held an 11-3 first down advantage in the first half.
Van Meter then took a confident 21-0 lead early in the third quarter when Netten picked up Wiggins, under pressure, and charged 55 yards down the sideline into the University of Northern Iowa purple endzone.
West Sioux head coach Ryan Schwiesow played from the 2-yard line on the subsequent drive with a brilliant play from the 2-yard line to make it 21-7. He sent QB Wiggins on the move, running back Carter Bultman got the snap, made a quick move to sell a play in progress stopped and skipped to Mason Coppock, who was wide open in the end zone. It capped off an impressive 16 play, 80 yard drive.
The Bulldogs ended any notion of a Falcon comeback, however, when Gilliland hit a grazing netten who stepped down the seam for a 61-yard TD shot, then followed up with a 39-yard pick six from Braun.
The Bulldogs piggybacked this championship from a baseball title in August.
Court kicker Katie Lindsay shared the posts on all seven of her extra point kicks.
West Sioux, who won a Class A state title in 2017 before making the leap to 1A, finishes the season 11-2.
Van Meter finishes 12-1, with the only other loss coming to Class 2A runners-up Williamsburg.
West Sioux (11-2) 0 0 7 0 — 7
Van Meter (12-1) 7 7 0 21 — 35
VM Carter Durflinger 18-yard pass from Ben Gilliland (Katie Lindsay Kick)
VM Gilliland 3 run (Lindsay Kick)
VM Aydn Netten 55 yard interception return
WS Mason Coppock 2-yard pass from Carter Bultman (kick from Omar Rivera)
VM Netten 61 Pass from Gilliland (Lindsay Kick)
VM John Braun 43-yard interception return, 9:54 (Lindsay Kick)