Cedar Falls eliminated Pleasant Valley from the Class 4A football playoffs last season but when the two teams met again Monday, Tigers head coach Pat Mitchell wasn’t sure he was playing the same team.
The name on the jerseys still said Pleasant Valley, but …
“They weren’t the same team,’’ Mitchell said. “They’re much better than last year, much, much better.’’
The Spartans were more than good enough to hand Cedar Falls a 26-7 defeat in the second-round 4A battle at Spartan Stadium, setting up an All-Mississippi Athletic Conference showdown Friday night at PV. The opponent will be crosstown rival Bettendorf, which pulled out a 27-24 overtime win at Iowa City West.
PV advanced Monday on the strength of Hunter Sickels’ strong right leg, a late second-quarter drive that was completely out of character and a lengthy third-quarter march that was exactly in character.
Sickels kicked field goals of 38, 27, 32 and 42 yards and is now 12 for 13 for the year.
His 32-yarder with 8 seconds to go in the second quarter may have been his biggest kick of the season because it gave the Spartans a 9-7 halftime lead and set the stage for a dominating second half.
The kick punctuated an 11-play, 50-yard drive that took only 80 seconds and showed the Spartans can do more than just hammer teams on the ground.
“We work on (the 2-minute drill) all the time,’’ PV coach Rusty Van Wetzinga said. “You never know when you’re going to need it and we needed it then. We’ve got an all-state kicker, I think, and he was able to put it through the uprights when we needed it.’’
In the third quarter, PV (11-0) reverted to character and put together a 65-yard drive that consumed almost 8 minutes and was comprised of 16 running plays, all but one involving fullback T.J. Zerbonia or quarterback Brady Letney. Adam O’Brien took it two yards into the end zone to make it 16-7 and the game was essentially over at that point.
“We’re a ground and pound team,’’ said Zerbonia, who finished with 109 yards in 20 carries. “It’s what we do. I’ve got to give props to the defense for getting the stop right before that. That really got us going as an offense.’’
That defense limited Cedar Falls to just 170 yards of offense although running back Eli Berregaard had 120 in 25 carries. The Tigers had only 61 yards and three first downs after halftime.
The Spartans made loads of mistakes in a 28-21 quarterfinal loss to Cedar Falls (7-4) last season, but they did very little wrong Monday. A personal foul penalty helped set up Cedar Falls’ only points of the night, but otherwise they were mistake free.
“They’re long in the tooth, if you want to put it that way,’’ Mitchell said. “They’re just a very good football team … in all phases.’’
A couple of players, in particular, caught the eye of the veteran coach. One, of course, was Sickels.
“He’s a tremendous weapon for them,’’ Mitchell said. “In the playoffs, the kicker controls the whole doggone thing and it was that way tonight.
“And that doggone fullback (Zerbonia) was a problem. We knew he’d be a problem and he certainly was ... He’s a load.’’
Pleasant Valley 26, Cedar Falls 7
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PV -- Hunter Sickels 38 field goal, 6:57
PV -- Sickels 27 field goal, 8:59
CF -- Kyle Boomgarden 7 pass Trey Hansen (Caleb Iehl kick), 1:28
PV -- Sickels 32 field goal, 0:08
PV -- Adam O'Brien 2 run (Sickels kick), 1:36
PV -- Sickels 42 field goal, 5:29
PV -- Brady Letney 10 run (Sickels kick), 1:24
Rushing -- CF, Eli Berregaard 25-120, Ben Fienup 7-15, Dennison Harrington 2-11, Brady Corson 1-(-1), Trey Hansen 2-(-5); PV, T.J. Zerbonia 20-109, Brady Letney 24-84, Nick Slavens 6-29, Adam O'Brien 5-14.
Passing -- CF, Hansen 5-13-0-30; PV, Letney 5-10-0-42.
Receiving -- CF, Harrington 2-12, Kyle Boomgarden 1-7, Marquise Busch 1-7, Matthew Fritz 1-4; PV, Logan Jacobs 3-27, Ryan Blunk 2-15.