MARION, Iowa — There have been seasons Bettendorf’s football team has leaned heavily on its defense to make deep playoff runs.
The Bulldogs might not be quite as stout on that side of the ball as they have been, but the offense is showing it can carry the load.
Bettendorf generated 536 yards of offense, 399 on the ground, Friday night to race past Linn-Mar 42-14 in a Class 4A playoff opener at Linn-Mar Stadium.
“We didn’t want to turn in our (equipment) tomorrow,” tailback Harrison Bey-Buie said. “I’m just getting used to my helmet.”
Coach Aaron Wiley’s team advances to play second-ranked Cedar Falls (10-0) in the quarterfinals next Friday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, a rematch of a Week 4 contest the Tigers won 35-32 in Bettendorf.
“You don’t always get a second chance in this game to redeem yourself,” Wiley said. “It’ll be a great opportunity for us, but we’ll need to play very well.”
The Bulldogs are humming along offensively.
Bettendorf is averaging more than 52 points a game the last three outings. It failed to score on just three possessions Friday — an interception deep in Linn-Mar territory, a lost fumble and one punt after getting backed up by penalties.
Otherwise, it had its way.
Bey-Buie rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Joe Byrne accumulated 151 yards on the ground and 137 through the air.
“Great, great job by the offensive line,” Byrne said. “They made holes any of us could have run through.”
The Bulldogs (8-2) were quick-strike early with a Bey-Buie 62-yard touchdown run, a 17-yard fumble recovery for a score by Kane Schmidt and a 79-yard touchdown from Byrne on a draw play.
Linn-Mar kept pace behind senior quarterback Marcus Orr. The 6-foot-1 and 210-pounder completed 15 of his first 21 throws for 218 yards.
Bettendorf went from quick-strike offense to a more methodical approach.
The Bulldogs pieced together a 13-play, 77-yard drive that chewed up more than six minutes of clock in the second quarter.
“If you’ve got ball control, that’s the best defense in the world,” Bey-Buie said.
The possession ended with tight end Noah Abbott hauling in a one-hand catch for a 20-yard touchdown on what was a broken play.
“We work on those sometimes in practice,” Abbott said. “I’ve got big hands so it works really well.”
Byrne, who started in the secondary all of last season but hadn’t played defense in the regular season, intercepted an Orr pass right before halftime to maintain the two-possession lead.
“It is something we’ve been messing with all year,” Wiley said. “At this point, you fire all your bullets. He’s one of our better athletes and has a lot of experience back there. You do what you have to do to get the win.”
Bettendorf’s defense stiffened in the second half. It limited Linn-Mar (6-4) to 69 yards and no points.
Orr finished with 277 passing yards and more than 1,900 for the season.
“We came out a little lackadaisical on defense,” Abbott said. “We knew they were going to pass a lot and they did. We came back nice after that.”
And the offense continued to chug along.
The Bulldogs racked up 23 first downs and had 12 plays go for 15 yards or more, including three better than 50 yards.
Byrne completed 12 of 14 passes. AJ Douglas was his top target with seven grabs for 81 yards.
“We’re clicking right now, confident and excited for what’s ahead,” Byrne said.
Bettendorf has lost to Cedar Falls in close games each of the past two years. It has a chance for redemption.
“We all think we let that one slip away earlier this year,” Abbott said. “It is nice to get revenge. It was Iowa City West last year. It is Cedar Falls this season.”