B&B tops Wallace County in DII title game
By CONOR NICHOLL
NEWTON -- Wallace County High School football coach Kevin Ayers is in his 16th year as head coach with 179 career games, including 152 victories, four trips to the state title game and three championships.
On Saturday, Ayers kept feeling the Wildcats were going to "get over the hump," gain momentum and start rolling. Ayers didn't know if ever had a contest where he had the feeling so frequently.
However, the Wildcats never could take control of the Eight-Man Division II state championship and eventually fell, 42-19, to Baileyville-B&B at Fischer Field. It marked the final game for the Falcons, which will consolidate with Seneca-Nemaha Valley next season to form Nemaha Central.
"Something would happen and boom, momentum stopped," Ayers said.
B&B finished 13-0, won its second straight state championship and fourth in six years. Wallace County, into the title game for the first time since a 2007 championship, finished 12-1.
"Probably the most pressure to get back," B&B coach Justin Coup said. "To win it was just icing on the cake. This is something, going back to back, that they are going to enjoy for the rest of their lives."
Senior quarterback/safety Kyle Gfeller, who hurt his ankle last week against Beloit/St. John's-Tipton, didn't practice until late in the week and was hobbled throughout the contest for the Wildcats. Gfeller finished 2 of 11 passing for 18 yards and rushed 21 times for just 46 yards.
The Wildcats had allowed an eight-man low 52 points entering the contest, but Falcons' senior quarterback Dustin Rottinghaus finished 25 of 49 for 395 yards and four passing TDs with one rushing score.
Wallace County had played well against good passing teams, such as Beloit/St. John's-Tipton in the sub-state championship game, but B&B had more weapons and eight-man's top quarterback.
"The accuracy of the passer, the amount of weapons they have, his ability to find that matchup or find that coverage that he likes within your defensive schemes," Ayers said. "You can tell that he is so intelligent, and then his receivers get open and make catches. It's just so hard to defend."
Senior Blake Deters hauled in nine catches for 150 yards and two scores. Senior Cameron Haug finished with seven grabs for 155 yards and a TD, while senior Brandon Bergman had six catches for 85 yards with a TD. Multiple times, the Falcons had big plays on third and fourth down to keep the momentum.
"You get them into third-and-10, it's really not a big deal," Ayers said. "That's right where they are at all the time, so it's so hard to defend because you can't set up down and distance stuff, because they have the ability to hit that hitch at 10 yards and he hits it right here, and he hits it as soon as they break."
Wallace County had been plus-24 in turnover margin and had lost just one fumble this season, but, with temperatures under 20 degrees, the Wildcats had four lost fumbles and finished minus-3 in turnover margin. Junior Derek Mueting recovered three fumbles and had a sack.
"They made more mistakes than we did causing them," Mueting said. "We just managed to recover them when they messed up."
At sub-state, Gfeller had his ankle caught under a player in the first quarter and hurt his ankle. Gfeller played the game and had it checked out Sunday morning and was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain. The doctors put the ligament back in place, taped it up and told him to "fight through it."
He entered Saturday with 1,451 total yards, 31 offensive scores accounted for and seven interceptions as a safety. But his ankle kept him on the sideline most of practice. On Tuesday night, Ayers didn't know if Gfeller could play at state. Gfeller practiced Thursday, but "took it easy." Gfeller estimated he was 85-90 percent.
Wallace County took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard run on fourth down with 9 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first quarter after the Wildcats recovered a bad snap at the Falcon 6-yard line.
Three plays later, Rottinghaus hit Deters with a 50-yard touchdown to cut the game to 7-6. Rottinghaus often took advantage of 1-on-1 matchups on the sideline for big gains.
"Whenever they started loading the box, we knew that it would have to be 1-on-1 coverage if they were going to be blitzing both linebackers," Rottinghaus said. "It was the same thing Hanover did to us, too (at sub-state)."
B&B took the lead for good at 12-7 on a 9-yard pass from Rottinghaus to Bergman with 11:10 left in the first half.
"We never had a quarterback that can throw like that, and we are not used to that spread offense throwing the ball," Gfeller said. "He is really talented and very accurate. We tried to prepare for him, but he is a heck of a ballplayer."
With 6:27 remaining in the half, Wallace County lined up for a 27-yard field goal. Gfeller had been 6 of 7 on extra points and 3 of 3 on field goals, but the coaching staff felt the kick was a bit long for the hampered senior. Wallace County ran a fake and the Falcons tackled Gfeller for a 7-yard loss. B&B led 20-7 at halftime on a 19-yard score to Deters with 21 seconds left.
"That was one of the things that was put on the bulletin board was how great their defense was," Coup said. "We take a lot of pride in our defense. At halftime, we said, "Our defense dominated.'"
On the first play of the second half, junior Nate Klinge had a 48-yard run, but fumbled at the B&B 3. Another drive stalled at the Falcon 30. Midway through the fourth quarter, B&B converted a fourth down and Rottinghaus eventually scored on a 1-yard run for a 36-13 lead that effectively put the game out of reach.
"I am proud of the way the guys battled," Ayers said. "It's hard in a game like this, when things just continually don't seem to fall into place."