DUBUQUE, Iowa — Turnovers played a decisive role Friday night as Class 4A top-ranked Bettendorf clinched the District 8 championship.
The Bulldogs picked off four Dubuque Senior passes en route to a 31-14 victory at Dalzell Field.
With the win, Bettendorf (8-0, 3-0 district) clinched the district crown and home field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Keegan Glaus intercepted a Lee Bonifas pass and returned 70 yards to set up Bettendorf's first touchdown in the second quarter, a 3-yard run by Justice O'Conner.
O'Conner would add another score from 7 yards out before halftime to make it 14-0.
The Rams (4-4, 1-3 in district) had their opportunities early but failed to capitalize. Senior compiled a 13-play, 78-yard drive that ended on a Bonifas interception in the end zone.
“You can’t turn the ball over in the red zone,” Senior coach Dale Ploessl said. “That was a huge turning point for us early. We had a chance to get on the board and we just didn’t do it.”
The drive would prove indicative of how the rest of the game would go for the Rams. Bonifas had a rough outing, completing 9 of 20 for 103 yards.
The Bulldogs were also stout against the run, limiting the Rams to just 2.8 yards per carry. Bettendorf stymied Dubuque Senior tailback Colton Iwasaki to 39 yards on 15 rushes.
“We made big plays when we had to,” Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley said. “We bent a little bit, but those four picks were huge.”
Bettendorf took its first drive of the second half 65 yards and capped it off with a 1-yard dive by quarterback Cyle Cox to put the Bulldogs up 21-0.
The Bulldogs added a 37-yard field goal from Matt Perk and another touchdown before the Rams scored off a blocked punt.
“In the first half, we were toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the state,” Ploessl said. "It proved to our kids that if we play mistake free football, we can hang with pretty much anybody. We gave up some big plays on both sides of the ball. If we can fix that, we can play with pretty much anybody.”
O'Conner finished with 70 yards on 18 rushes and three scores for the Bulldogs, while Cox threw for 133 yards and rushed for 79 more.
Receiver Austin Cullor had three receptions for 89 yards, including a long reception that set up a Bulldog touchdown.
Bettendorf closes the regular season at Brady Street Stadium next Friday against winless Davenport West.