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Back to work as Van Meter football battles ACGC in postseason opener

Andrew Brown
Dallas County News
Van Meter head football coach Eric Trudo Friday, Sept. 4 during the week two battle against Earlham.

As the 2020 Iowa high school postseason continues on to the second round, the Van Meter Bulldogs will begin their playoff action. 

Thanks to their unblemished regular season that produced an eighth straight district title, the Bulldogs were granted a first-round bye. They will now take on round one winner and familiar foe ACGC to kick off their playoff push on Friday, Oct. 23. This will be the first postseason meeting between these two squads but it will be the eighth all-time contest since 2008.

"Not much changes, we continue to prepare for them like we should for any opponent," said Trudo. "We've been successful focusing on what we can control." 

Van Meter football huddles before a play Friday, Sept. 4 against Earlham.

Focusing on their control helped the Bulldogs capture a 46-12 victory over ACGC in their 2020 regular season meeting. In that outing alone, the Bulldogs posted 387 yards of total offense.  Outings against the Chargers have routinely shown big yardage in favor of the Bulldogs.  Van Meter has averaged 372.8 yards against the Chargers over the past five meetings as the Bulldogs have won by an average of 23 points per game. 

"ACGC has a strong running game, it's a big and powerful rushing attack and they do very well with that," began Trudo. "We have to do our best to contain that and not let them establish the run. They've also got some players who didn't play last time that will be playing this time around." 

The Van Meter defense stops a West Central Valley run for no gain Friday, Sept. 18 during homecoming in Van Meter.

 Heading into tonight's battle, the Chargers bring the third-best rushing attack in Class 1A with 2,210 yards. That has equaled out to 6.2 yards per carry and 27 total rushing scores on the season. Van Meter has been able to halt such a rushing attack each of the past four meetings.

"It's important on whoever we play to focus on what we can control within the concept of the team," Trudo said. "Our kids typically do that well and we'll have to do that very well to be successful this time." 

ACGC has also been known to surprise teams with the pass as they enter with 311 aerial yards and a pair of passing scores. 

"I think it's the same thing as with the passing game," said Trudo. "There are guys who are responsible for defending the pass just as there are those who's job is to defend the pass." 

Jack Pettit with a throw Friday, Sept. 18 against West Central Valley during homecoming.

With a formula that has produced five unblemished regular seasons, the same could be said about the offensive side of the ball. Van Meter hasn't produced less than 289 yards of offense in any one game in 2020.  The Bulldogs have totaled two 400-plus yard outings in 2020 and have 51 consecutive regular-season wins under their belts. 

Leading the surge behind a dominating offensive line is junior Jack Pettit. With 831 total aerial yards and 12 scores, Pettit ranks third and second respectively within Class 1A's District 8 field. Both Pettit and fellow junior Dalten Van Pelt have been two of the districts' top players. Pettit's 1,272 all-purpose yards ranks second within the district while Van Pelt's 1,090 yards ranks third among District 8 players. 

Van Meter's Dalten Van Pelt attempts to break out of a tackle Friday, Sept. 18 against West Central Valley.

For the Chargers, a main focal point will be junior Gavin Cornelison who leads the District 8 field with 14 rushing touchdowns. Averaging 6.5 yards per carry, Cornelison has totaled 918 yards on the ground and is a big target for the Bulldog defense. 

This is the first time over the past five years that these two teams have played twice in one season. The second 2020 matchup will take place at 7 p.m. tonight in Van Meter.