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Van Meter seizes the moment, Regina continues

Before the first whistle blew between No. 1 West Branch and No. 8 Van Meter, it was clear it wasn’t going to be an average No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup.

Van Meter dreaded the task, despite being 14-5 and making his first appearance in the state tournament. The size of the Bulldogs compared to their opponent was incredibly striking. Van Meter was a much bigger team on the field.

The Bulldogs knew where their strengths lay, firing crosses and long passes into the penalty area, looking for headers and winning battles for the ball. Halfway through the first half, a cross into the penalty area resulted in a handball, which earned Van Meter a penalty. Sophomore Henry Lounsbury buried it, rushing to the corner to celebrate with his team and ignite the Van Meter faithful in attendance.

Van Meter's Kaleb Myers is challenged for the ball by West Branch's Elliot Hinkhouse on Wednesday during the Iowa state football tournament.  The Bulldogs defeated West Branch 3-1 to advance to Friday's semifinals.Van Meter's Kaleb Myers is challenged for the ball by West Branch's Elliot Hinkhouse on Wednesday during the Iowa state football tournament.  The Bulldogs defeated West Branch 3-1 to advance to Friday's semifinals.

Van Meter’s Kaleb Myers is challenged for the ball by West Branch’s Elliot Hinkhouse on Wednesday during the Iowa state football tournament. The Bulldogs defeated West Branch 3-1 to advance to Friday’s semifinals.

A few minutes later, the Bulldogs committed a foul near midfield. A long pass into the box landed right on the head of junior Caleb Moore and flew past the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead. Then, with just 1:30 to go, a cross came loose in the penalty area, allowing Lounsbury to drill the ball into the goal and take a 3-0 lead heading into halftime.

“It was the game plan because when big balls come in we like to try to win the headers with our size,” Lounsbury said.

In the second half, the Bulldogs used that measure to maintain possession and hold on for a win. Van Meter had just one mishap in the box all game, which led to a goal for West Branch senior Joe Hamann.

There was celebration for this Bulldog team. Not only had they won their first ever state tournament game, but they defeated the No. 1 seed and undefeated West Branch team along the way.

“I mean, it’s the first four years (of the program) and we’re already coming in with a state appearance? It feels good,” Lounsbury said.

Still, the Bulldogs remained ready. I thanked the referees as they left the field and told the opponents how great they were. Van Meter was modest after the upset victory, but their behavior is a byproduct of their increasing confidence. The Bulldogs expected to make it here and knew they had a chance to pull off the stunner.

“That’s the 1 seed, we’re the 8 seed,” coach Jonah Waldron told his team after the win. “Right now we’re showing everyone what we stand for. Absolutely brilliant from the start.”

No. 5 West Liberty 2, No. 4 West Christian 1 (OT)

This was the game of the evening.

With sixteen minutes left and the score tied at one, West Liberty goalkeeper David Hernandez was staring down a penalty kick. He made a crucial save to send the game to extra time. It was there that a loose ball bounced around the penalty box and ended up at the feet of West Liberty senior captain Bruce Songa.

He left no doubt as he sailed the ball into the top shelf of the goal.

“We’ve been working on that all along, he should clean that up,” coach Walton Ponce said. “He was there as requested. I’m so excited and so happy for these guys. No one expected us to be here. Now we’re in the final four and we want more.”

No. 3 North Fayette Valley 2, No. 6 West Sioux 1

After trailing 1-0 through the first ten minutes of action, West Fayette Valley quickly took control.

Senior midfielder Andrew Fuentes had a penalty opportunity, which was initially saved. But it was flung into the air and eventually tapped by Fuentes to tie it up. Junior Brody Schupach gave the Tigerhawks the lead after finding space in the field and sending his shot into the opposite bottom corner in the 14th minute.

From there, the Tigerhawks held on for a 2-1 win and earned a matchup with No. 2 seed Iowa City Regina on Friday.

No. 2 Iowa City Regina 2, No. 7 Hudson 0

The Regals punched their ticket to the next round.

Leading 1-0 in the first half, senior Emiliano Herrera-Sinnwell had nothing but green grass in front of him as he blazed up the left side of the field. His shot ricocheted off the goalkeeper’s knee, bounced off the right post and into the net for a 2-0 scoreline.

Eli McKown covers high school sports and wrestling for the Des Moines Register. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @EMcKown23

This article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: Iowa boys state football tournament: Class 1A quarterfinals overview

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