Van Meter set to take on OABCIG in 1A state title game
The historic season that has been for Van Meter continues on the gridiron in the ultimate showdown on Friday, Nov. 20.
Following their state semifinal defeat of South Central Calhoun, the Bulldogs kept their unblemished season alive by earning a spot in the Class 1A state title game. It marks their third state title game appearance in the past four years and Van Meter will be seeking their second title win in that four-year span.
"It shows the resiliency of our kids and how year after year they put in the work," began head coach Eric Trudo. "These guys have put in great hustle and effort and as long as we do that, we have a chance to win the game."
In order to acquire their second state crown in program history, the Bulldogs will have to go up against Class 1A District 9 champion OABCIG. Just as any would imagine a state title game to be, the battle against the defending 2A state champion Falcons will be the toughest battle of the season for the Bulldogs.
OABCIG enters their second straight title game with quite the high powered offense as Class 1A leaders in all-purpose yards (5,722). The Falcons possess an offense that is similar to Van Meter's in that they are sound overall, sporting top-five rushing and passing attacks.
OABCIG's passing attack has been the cream of the Class 1A crop, pacing the way in offensive touchdowns (71). The team has also led the way in passing scores with 34, passing yards with 3,340 and ranks fourth in the class with 37 rushing scores. OABCIG comes in as a team ranking top-five or better in Class 1A in 30 statistical categories, the most among 1A teams.
Of course, for the Bulldogs, they come fresh off of a strong 20-12 victory over a South Central Calhoun team that ranked third with 38 rushing scores and an average of 15 yards per catch through the air. In stopping yet another offensive power, limiting chances is once again on the forefront of the thinking for coach Trudo and company.
"We certainly need to finish our drives offensively and get off the field on third downs and maybe even fourth downs," Trudo said. "They are an aggressive offense and so we have to be aggressive on offense as well. We can't have missed opportunities in the red-zone the way we did last week."
Defensively Van Meter will have to put on their best performance yet, up against a near team full of playmakers, beginning with the player under center. One of the more noted quarterbacks in the Class 1A field this year has been OABCIG's Cooper DeJean. The senior will enter the state title game already with a pair of All-State honors under his belt. His 2020 season has been just as impressive sporting a Class 1A leading 57 scores and the second-most passing yards in the state.
"There's no doubt he (DeJean) gets the majority of the attention and rightfully so," said Trudo. "We're not losing sight of the fact that they have five great receivers, sometimes six with rotating in. They do a great job of blocking as well as receiving plus their offensive line does a great job of protecting him and giving him opportunities. They understand how to block when he breaks the pocket so it's a total team effort and that's what we're preparing for."
The cast surrounding DeJean is also the best that the Bulldog defense will have faced in 2020. Two of the top-five scorers in receiving belong to the Falcons. Even with those factors at play, the Bulldogs are arguably the best team suited to take on OABCIG. They've allowed an average of just nine points per game defensively, including against the Titans in the semifinals, forcing South Central Calhoun to their lowest offensive output since 2018.
The turnover margin, which has favored Van Meter all season, played a big factor in the semifinal victory. That same defensive performance will once again need to be on display in order for another title to be sent back to Van Meter.
"With this team even more so, we have to stick to our reads and assignments and be sound defensively," Trudo said. "It was a big turning point in the second half when they scored that we were able to turn them over in three straight possessions with interceptions."
Meanwhile offensively they've sported some high-powered pieces of their own. In fact, right behind Dejean in total individual touchdowns is Van Meter's Jack Pettit sporting 34 scores. That's without mentioning Class 1A's leading rushing in yards on the ground with Dalten Van Pelt, highlighting one of the more potent rushing attacks with 1,767 yards individually.
Ultimately this will be a Goliath vs. Golaith type battle of air vs ground. OABCIG has continued to push their passing attack with a class-leading 344 pass attempts. Meanwhile, that very same bread and butter offensive threat for Van Meter on the ground has been and will be highlighted with 440 rushing attempts entering the title game.
"A big thing for both teams is going to be disrupting the tempo of the other team," said Trudo. "We've got to find a way of limiting that disruption on our end while forcing more of that on their end."
This will be the first-ever gridiron meeting between these two teams and Van Meter is seeking to extend their title-game record to 2-1. The battle will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 20 from the UNI-Dome.