Gabe Anstoetter wasn’t showing any favoritism Friday night. He was making the biggest plays of the game on both sides of the ball.
Anstoetter had 136 yards of offense, two touchdowns and a pivotal fumble recovery to help lead Dubuque Wahlert to its first postseason victory since 2008.
The Golden Eagles advanced in the Iowa Class 3A football playoffs with a convincing 24-7 first-round win over Charles City at Loras College’s Rock Bowl. Wahlert (5-2) will travel to face Decorah (6-1) in Friday’s second round. Charles City finished winless at 0-6.
Anstoetter, along with Ryan Brosius, sparked a Wahlert offense that wouldn’t stay idle for long.
Brosius had a 33-yard run late in the first quarter — Wahlert’s first play of over 4 yards, setting the stage for Anstoetter, who reeled off a 30-yard touchdown run for the game’s first score with 11:16 left in the second quarter.
After Colin Warthan’s bone-rattling stop of the Comets’ Jeremiah Chapman on the ensuing kick, Charles City’s offense seemed to wake up as well.
Two-straight 30-yard bursts by Trever Heitz and a Wahlert penalty had Charles City primed to tie the game, but Anstoetter and Brosius came up big again to recapture the momentum for Wahlert.
Anstoetter recovered a Heitz fumble on Wahlert’s 1-yard line denying the Comets at the doorstep of a score. Brosius raced down the sideline for a 77-yard gain completely flipping the field. On the next play, Wahlert pulled out the tricks to add to its lead. Jake Brosius took a pitch and tossed a 19-yard TD to Seamus Crahan for a 14-0 lead with 6:32 left before halftime.
“(Anstoetter’s fumble recovery) was the key moment in the game,” Wahlert coach Jamie Marshall said. “If (Charles City) scores there, it changes everything. Instead we rip it out of there and we go down and score.”
“That was a big momentum changer,” he said. “It was huge. Coach told us this was going to be a tough game and I don’t think we came out like we should have. But we turned it around when we had to.”
The second half started much like the first with Wahlert’s defense making the big play early.
Danny Steele recovered a Comet fumble to set up Nathan Donovan for a 30-yard field goal, extending Wahlert’s lead to 17-0.
The Comets, though, were not going down easy. They got a big return on the ensuing kick and needed just 31 yards in eight plays to get on the scoreboard, compliments of a Chapman 3-yard TD run, and aided by a Wahlert defensive offside penalty on a key fourth-down situation.
Wahlert had the answer and it was vintage Anstoetter. The senior had a 29-yard reception on third-and-long, and ran four times on the nine-play drive, including his bulldozing TD run from 3-yards out which put the game on ice.
Anstoetter ran 17 times for 99 yards and had a pair of receptions for 37 yards. Ryan Brosius had 134 yards rushing for the Eagles. Doyle added two more sacks for Wahlert’s strong defensive effort.
“It was tough sledding there for a while,” Marshall said. “Charles City came to play, but credit to our guys because we didn’t panic. We hung in there.”