EPWORTH, Iowa — The word is out that Western Dubuque can sling the ball around.
The Bobcats aren’t some one-trick pony, though. And they unleashed their stable on Friday night to prove it.
Spencer Zinn ran for 192 yards and three touchdowns — including a back-breaking (and school-record) 96-yard sprint in the fourth quarter —and Western Dubuque ran for 311 yards as a team in a 47-21 victory over Waverly-Shell Rock in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs at Buchman Field.
Western Dubuque (5-3) snapped a two-game losing streak and advanced to play West Delaware (8-1) in next week’s second-round.
“I felt like our offensive line just had a nasty streak in them tonight,” Bobcats coach Justin Penner said. “I don’t know if they had a point to prove, or if we just weren’t nice enough to them all week, or mama said something not very nice before they left. I don’t know what it was today, but they just had a nasty streak in them, so it made it a lot of fun to run the football tonight.”
Zinn broke off runs of 15 yards or longer three times in the first half, including a bruising 25-yard run up the middle that set up his second touchdown of the half, and routinely broke through Waverly-Shell Rock’s tackle attempts. Nothing compared to his 96-yard burst in the fourth quarter, which surpassed Carver Conway’s 91-yard run in 2017 as the longest play in program history.
“I like to keep going,” he said. “I don’t like to have one guy faze me.”
Jacob Butcher was a perfect change of pace and had runs of 12, 23, 16 and 10 yards in the first half. He finished with 64 yards on seven carries. Dominic Frost, a smaller and elusive running back, started over the two more experienced backs and finished with 27 yards on five carries and was in on a number of tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
“When you’re sharing carries between four different kids, they’re out there to prove that they need to stay in the football game, so they’re playing with a little chip on their shoulders,” Penner said. “We’re starting to push the right buttons with this group.”
Garrett Baumhover completed 8 of 12 passes for 192 yards and four touchdowns — with two each to Dakota Lau and Tommy DeSollar.
The Go-Hawks fumbled on their second possession and Owen Hatcher recovered for Western Dubuque, setting up Baumhover’s 41-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Lau.
“I was supposed to fake a block or something and then run up the field,” Lau said. “I guess they bought it.”
Zinn scored the first of his three touchdowns on the Bobcats’ next possession, punching it in from the 1. Baumhover connected with DeSollar for a 19-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter before Zinn’s 7-yard run gave WD a 27-0 lead.
By that time, the Bobcats had the Go-Hawks exactly where they wanted them.
Waverly-Shell Rock features a rush-heavy offense and had attempted just 53 passes while rushing the ball 296 times in seven games prior to Friday. Facing a 20-point deficit, they had no choice but to throw. After totaling 76 yards on its first five drives and time running out in the first half, quarterback Brady Ramker was given the green light. He was 3-for-4 for 31 yards on the final real drive of the half, finding Ryan Folkerts for a 10-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the quarter.
The Go-Hawks came out firing in the second half, forcing a Western Dubuque punt before embarking on an eight-play drive in which six different players had a rushing attempt. Fullback McCrae Hagarty finished it off with a 3-yard touchdown run to cut the Bobcats’ lead to 27-14 midway through the third.
Lau and Baumhover restored the lead to 20, hooking up for another 41-yard touchdown reception that was remarkably similar to their first — including Lau being left uncovered down the sideline. Ryker Staudenmaier thwarted a Waverly scoring threat, breaking up a pass and coming away with an interception — WD’s fourth takeaway — just before the receiver would have crossed the goal line.
Baumhover hit DeSollar for a 76-yard touchdown two snaps later for a 26-point lead.
After the WD defense held on fourth-and-2 at its own 4, Zinn ran up the middle and went virtually untouched until he was tripped up into the end zone 96 yards later.
Go-Hawks backup QB Grant Halverson found Simon Ott for an 18-yard touchdown with 7 seconds left to account for the final margin.
Now the Bobcats turn their focus to West Delaware, a team that handed them a 49-14 loss just a few weeks ago.
“It starts with practice,” Lau said. “We’ve got to come hungry. We can’t think about when we lost that game. We have to think about surviving and advancing.”