CEDAR FALLS – The post-game scene in the media room said it all: ice packs, fresh bandages, torn wraps, cuts and bruises.
Blood, sweat and of course tears.
For nearly three hours on the field at the UNI Dome on Saturday night, a Class 3A semi-final between Humboldt and Mount Vernon looked more like a tug-of-war than smooth indoor football on turf. Hard hits, defensive stands and very little margin for error kept the scoreboard practically still after the second-seeded Mustangs marched down the field to score a touchdown on the opening drive.
In the end, the No. 3 Wildcats couldn’t quite close the gap as the undefeated Mount Vernon escaped and pocketed his ticket to the championship game by a 14-6 lead.
It wasn’t due to a lack of effort on the part of the Humboldt players and coaches. The Wildcat defense stopped five different Mustang drives in Humboldt territory, taking bend-but-don’t-break to a whole new level.
Ultimately, head coach Derrick Elman’s side just couldn’t generate enough offense to beat Mount Vernon (12-0 overall) — an opponent statistically as good as Humboldt in a game that lived up to the defensive hype.
“Personally, I think these are the top two defenses[in 3A],” Elman said about the teams ranked 1st and 2nd with the fewest points allowed. “When your kids are willing to fight like that, it just makes you so proud as a coach. (The Mustangs) have scored a lot this year (third best offense in class with 37.1 points per contest) so keeping them at 14 is pretty awesome.
“We took a lot of body hits and the defense were put in some difficult spots but they stayed there. The defense was without light all year. The children left everything on the field.”
The Wildcats (10-2) fell 14-3 in the first game of the fourth quarter and had mustered just 124 total offensive yards to that point. However, a second field goal from Trever Beach — from 22 yards out — Humboldt pulled back 5:52, typically within a single possession, and the Wildcats drove late to Mount Vernon’s 16-yard line, thanks in large part to a 40-yard -Pass from Will Orness to Corey Dettmann.
In a symbolic sequence for the fight, the Mustangs responded by assisting Humboldt into a 4th-and-36 after the following three snaps. A desperate Orness lever towards the end zone was intercepted right on the goal line and Mount Vernon had prevailed.
“I’m so proud of our boys” said Orness, one of 21 Wildcat seniors who have helped the school reach the semifinals in back-to-back campaigns. “We worked really hard to get here and no one thought we would (reach the semifinals again after heavy final losses).
“We reinforced a lot of[players]even if they didn’t play in positions they weren’t used to initially (Orness went from receiver to quarterback). I’m just grateful that I got to be a part of it.”
The Mustangs were able to build the run with relative consistency, carrying it 33 times for 157 yards. Henry Ryan ran 19 times for 104 yards, and quarterback Joey Rhomberg scrambled just enough to keep the Humboldt defense honest.
Rhomberg also completed 22 of 35 passes for 148 yards. The Wildcats gave up just a single 20+ yard run – to Ryan on the contest’s opening possession – and a late 25-yard completion by Rhomberg to Brady Erickson, ultimately leading to Mount Vernon’s second touchdown.
The Mustangs, who now face leader Harlan for the 3A title on Friday, reached Humboldt Yard lines 33, 18, 24, 22 and 23 without scoring a single point after their successful first drive. Dettmann and Ty Gargano intercepted passes on back-to-back possession late in the second quarter.
A 54-yard run by standout junior Lance Coon led to Beach’s first field goal from 33 yards, 4:06 in the first quarter. Coon had 58 yards on 15 carries, giving him a 3A-best 1,566 yards of the year.
Orness threw for 131 yards despite the constant pressure. Dettmann caught five passes for 52 yards, Joshua Thurm caught two for 45 yards.
Tayeton Lohaus recorded 2.5 tackles for the loss. Gaige Allen, Michael Illg, Josh Beldin and Beach were the lead tacklers for Humboldt.
Beach finished the season 9-on-9 on field goal attempts.
The Wildcats only allowed more than 14 points once in 2022. The program boasts a 21-3 record over the past two seasons combined.
“I heard Corey (Dettmann) say (afterwards) that only a team can walk away smiling when it’s all over.” said Elman. “Three of the four teams playing at the Dome have to deal with that feeling. But that doesn’t overshadow what we’ve accomplished and what it took (as a program) to get back here (for a second straight season).
“Not many schools can say they have made the last four in consecutive years. When our boys are 40 years old they can come back (to Humboldt) and see that in the trophy box. Nothing will take that away from them. Of course it hurts now, but it was a special run for our program and the community.”
Seniors Orness, Gargano, Lohaus, Beach, Tower, Beldin, Illg, Hunter Dery, Carrson Bothne, Jayden Drewis, Jack Opheim, Owen Hubbell, Kyle Caquelin, Jayse Allen, Christian Lee, Peyton Weers, Levi Bonnstetter, Brody Patterson, Evan Hundertmark and Drake Lowe dressed in a Humboldt uniform for the last time on Saturday. Standout lineman Kaleb McCullough, who was injured late in the regular season, is also a senior.
Orness, Beach, Lee, Lohaus, Beldin and Illg were starters on either side of the ball. Hundertmark, Weers, Caquelin, Bothne, Hubbell and Gargano were the other senior starters.
First Downs 6 18
Rush yards 21-47 33-157
Past 131 148
Comp Att Int 9-18-2 22-35-2
Total offenses 178 305
Punts Avg. 5-36.2 3-33.0
Fumbles Lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties 4-35 4-36
Humboldt 3 0 0 3 — 6
Mt Vernon 7 0 0 7 – 14
Mount Vernon – Brady Erickson (18-yard pass from Joey Rhomberg), 9:28 left the first quarter. Kick Ben Crock.
Humboldt – Trever Beach (33-yard field goal), 4:07 first left.
Mount Vernon — Joey Rhomberg (4-yard run), 11:55 left fourth. crock kick.
Humboldt – Beach (22-yard field goal), 5:52 left fourth.
RUSHING – Humboldt: Lance Coon 15-58, Will Orness 6-(minus-11). Mount Vernon: Henry Ryan 19-104, Joey Rhomberg 7-36, Jackson Hird 5-27, Team 2-(minus-9).
OVER – Humboldt: Will Orness 9-18-2-131. Mount Vernon: Joey Rhomberg 22-35-2-148.
RECEIVED — Humboldt: Corey Dettmann 5-52, Joshua Thurm 2-45, Trever Beach 1-35, Mason Van Pelt 1-(minus-1). Mount Vernon: Brady Erickson 6-64, Evan Brase 4-34, Caden Stimmel 4-19, Jensen Meeker 2-15, Henry Ryan 2-12, Austin Deeb 3-8, Zatyk Holub 1-(minus-4).
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