About a week before Bettendorf’s football team opened the season against Davenport Assumption, the coaching staff decided to move Mason Hocker from cornerback to defensive end.
“I thought it was kind of crazy,” Hocker said, “but I just started working with coach (Kevin) Freking and he turned me into a defensive lineman.”
Just 190 pounds, the senior has evolved into a dominant rush end.
Powered by Hocker and a superior front seven, Class 4A second-ranked Bettendorf turned in a defensive masterpiece Friday night with a 31-7 triumph over Iowa City High in a quarterfinal tilt at TouVelle Stadium.
The Bulldogs (12-0) advance to the state semifinals for the third consecutive season and fifth time in six years. Next up is third-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy (12-0) at 4:05 p.m. Friday in the UNI-Dome.
Coach Aaron Wiley’s squad will attempt to write a different ending after losing in the semifinals each of the past two seasons to Cedar Rapids Xavier and Cedar Rapids Washington.
“We are sick of seeing everybody cry,” tailback Dax Emerson said. “We want to go there and win the whole darn thing.”
If Bettendorf’s defense performs like it did Friday, it stands a legitimate chance.
City High (8-4) mustered only 86 total yards (negative-10 after halftime). It didn’t collect a first down in the second half, its longest rush of the game was a yard and it punted 11 times (twice on third down).
“The defense was outstanding,” Wiley said. “They just have a sense of urgency. You win games with defense and controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Hocker was at the forefront of it. He had four tackles for loss and blocked a punt. Fellow end Riley Biggs also had a sack.
“They’re undersized, but they’re fast, athletic and tough, tough kids,” Wiley said. “I’ll take a smaller, quicker and tougher kid over the big guys any day.
“They sometimes are giving up 80 to 100 pounds, but they have great motors. It gives us a nice dimension of rushing the passer.”
After Bettendorf failed to capitalize inside City High’s 40-yard line on four occasions in the first half, the Little Hawks scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Jared Taylor to Dylan Leigh late in the second quarter to even the game at halftime.
It was a mild surprise given Bettendorf defeated City High 44-7 in Week 2.
“They came out ready to play, and we came out a little bit flat offensively,” quarterback Owen Ridenour said. “I think everyone was kind of shocked we were tied, but everyone was pretty calm in the locker room.
“We had seniors step up and say, ‘Guys, we’re not going to lose. We’re not going to have that sour taste in our mouths at the end of the year.’”
The Bulldogs owned the second half in every facet.
Bettendorf pieced together three scoring drives in the third quarter to seize control. Emerson, who finished with 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns, had 1- and 42-yard scoring runs in the quarter.
“Our coaches got the linemen figured out on who they need to block and where they need to go,” Emerson said. “They were loading the box heavy.”
The Bulldogs compiled 229 yards of offense in the second half. In addition to Emerson, Ridenour finished with 104 yards on the ground. He also completed all 10 of his throws in the final two quarters and ended with 156 yards through the air.
“We need a game like this once in a while,” Hocker said of the initial gutcheck.
Taylor, who had thrown for 1,900-plus yards this season, was under constant duress. Bettendorf finished with 12 tackles for loss and held its 10th opponent below 100 rushing yards.
“We all have a fire under our behinds,” Hocker said. “We just love the game and love hitting people. That's the mindset we're taking to the Dome."
Bettendorf 31, Iowa City High 7
|Iowa City High||0||7||0||0||--||7|
Bett — Dax Emerson 1 run (Matt Perk kick), 4:01
ICH — Dylan Leigh 15 pass from Jared Taylor (Sarrive Rukakiza kick), 1:24
Bett — Emerson 1 run (Perk kick), 8:38
Bett — Perk 25 FG, 3:22
Bett — Emerson 42 run (Perk kick), 0:39
Bett — Owen Ridenour 2 run (Perk kick), 7:27
Rushing -- City High, Bryce Frantz 4-1, Erick Fletcher 1-1, Team 1-(-2), Kennardo Rodney 1-(-2), Jared Taylor 10-(-40). Bettendorf, Dax Emerson 25-112, Owen Ridenour 13-104, Mason Morris 3-6, Team 1-(-3).
Passing -- City High, Taylor 11-25-1, 128 yards. Bettendorf, Ridenour 17-25-1, 156 yards; Perk 0-1-1, 0 yards.
Receiving -- City High, Jason Jones 4-52, Frantz 3-29, Vance Dillon 1-23, Dylan Leigh 1-15, Griffin Fellows 1-5, James Martinez-Burney 1-4. Bettendorf, Ryan Donovan 4-67, Suni Lane 6-32, Keaton Cain 2-20, Logan Lira 1-20, Ian Beck 2-17, Emerson 2-0.