CEDAR FALLS – A Bulldog Dynasty? Maybe.
titles in a row? Absolutely.
Van Meter clinched their second straight Class 1A state football title with a 35-7 win over West Sioux on Friday night at the UNI Dome. The Bulldogs end the 2022 season with a 12-1 record and are state champions for the third time in school history, having previously won last year and 2017.
The Bulldogs put on a masterful performance against the Falcons, who ended the year 11-2 overall. Van Meter forged a 14-0 lead at halftime on his first two possessions, scored two more hits on two pick-sixes in the second half, and held a Falcon offense that averaged 47.5 points per game for just 214 yards and scored 7 points.
“We played phenomenally well,” said Van Meter coach Eric Trudo. “Our children came concentrated and concentrated. I don’t even think we expected it. This is a great West Sioux team. Well-trained, great players… that’s what we have to tell our children.
Ben Gilliland gave Van Meter another strong offensive performance, completing 7 of 12 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns to Carter Durflinger in the first quarter and Aydn Netten in the fourth. Gilliland also rushed 10 times for 62 yards and another touchdown. Overall, Van Meter put 273 yards on a West Sioux defense that looked mighty impressive in last week’s 47-7 semifinal win over the powerful Underwood.
West Sioux’s offense, one of the best in Iowa this season, struggled all game against Van Meter’s vaunted defense. Quarterback Dylan Wiggins finished 20 of 31 for 127 yards and was picked up four times. Two were taken back for touchdowns, a 55-yarder from Netten in the third quarter to give Van Meter a 21-0 lead and a 43-yarder from John Braun in the fourth to thwart the 35-7 win.
The Bulldogs only sacked Wiggins once but recorded seven lost tackles overall. The Falcons had just seven possessions all game and four ended in turnovers. Much of West Sioux’s offensive success throughout the season came in the form of big plays. Against Van Meter, the Falcons’ longest game was a 17-yard run by Carter Bultman in the third quarter when the Bulldogs were already leading 21-0.
“It starts with not giving up big games,” said Trudo. “I went into every game saying we don’t want to give up big games. Today that has changed a bit. It was more like we cut back on the big games because they’re so explosive – and I don’t know we gave up a big chunk.
“These guys were just so locked in.”
As of 2017, Van Meter has been at or near the top of Class 1A football. The Bulldogs have posted an amazing 72-4 aggregate record over the past six seasons. There have been three of those defeats here at the UNI Dome: against West Lyon in the 2019 state final; to OABCIG in the 2020 State Finals; and to West Sioux in the 2018 semifinals. (The fourth loss: in Week 2 to a Williamsburg team that eventually reached the Class 2A state championship game.)
The 2019 West Lyon team have beaten everyone this season, including Van Meter with a 50-14 win in the State Finals. But Van Meter’s other two losses went to teams led by some of the all-time greatest players in Iowa high school football, namely West Sioux’s Hunter Dekkers, now an Iowa State quarterback, and OABCIG’s Cooper DeJean, a star -Defender of the Hawkeyes.
If there weren’t two all-timers, it’s not unreasonable to think that Van Meter could have at least two more titles.
“I thought about that,” Trudo said in a quiet moment on Friday evening.
Still, a third title puts Van Meter in rare air. They are now the 32nd high school in Iowa to win three or more state soccer titles. They were joined this week by Remsen St. Mary’s, who beat WACO for the 8-player crown on Thursday.
After the unilateral victory on Friday, Trudo gathered his team in the tunnel here at the UNI Dome for the first celebration. They waved their championship banner, lifted the golden trophy and cheered together so loudly that it could be heard from the UNI Dome’s press gallery high above the pitch and grandstands.
A Bulldog Dynasty? There’s a fight, sure.
But back-to-back state champions sound pretty good too.
“Never gets old,” said Trudo, smiling, “but I’ll certainly never take it for granted.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at@codygoodwin.