CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Joe Byrne sent a message to the rest of the Class 4A playoff field Friday night.
Key in on stopping Harrison Bey-Buie at your own risk.
With Cedar Falls geared up to stop the powerful Bettendorf running back, Byrne took advantage, throwing for 112 yards, rushing for 91 more and leading the seventh-ranked Bulldogs to a 24-14 quarterfinal win over No. 2 Cedar Falls at the UNI-Dome.
The Bulldogs return to the semifinals for the third straight year, facing top-ranked West Des Moines Valley next week at 4 p.m. Friday.
"(Bey-Buie) is the best back in the state so we knew they were going to key in on him in a game as important as this. So we just tried to spread the field out horizontally so that could open up lanes for him," Byrne said. "It was just win or go home so we had to have that mentality. ... That was in my mind. It feels really good, but it was a great team win."
Oh, and Bey-Buie still had a huge night, rushing for 190 yards and two touchdowns. He was held to 93 yards in the first meeting between the two teams this year, a 35-32 Cedar Falls win. He started the night slowly with just 30 yards on his first 13 carries but found more and more holes as the game went on, moving into third on the school's single-season rushing list with 1,960 yards, trailing just Tavian Banks and Anthony Bribriesco for most in a single year.
"We knew they were going to key down on me, they did it the first time so we just focused on the passing game and whatever works, works," Bey-Buie said. "It's been a great year for me and the team. The offensive line helped me, pushed me every day, and it feels good to have my name mentioned with Tavian Banks and all of them."
Bettendorf continues to show it can make adjustments during the course of the season. By avenging the loss from earlier in the season, the Bulldogs have not lost to a team twice in a season since 1996.
"I thought we were cleaner than the first time we played them," head coach Aaron Wiley said. "The first time we played them, we had a lot of mistakes and that's just some early season stuff and we cleaned some of that up. That's a really good team we just beat, hat's off to Cedar Falls."
Bettendorf started a little sluggish, with third-down drops on its first two drives, but the Bulldogs were kick-started by their defense. Reed Shea intercepted a pass from Cael Loecher, setting up a 2-yard run from Bey-Buie to take a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes, 55 seconds left in the second quarter.
Cedar Falls looked to have Bettendorf stopped on the Bulldogs’ next drive. But a late hit from Eli Mickey on Byrne kept the offense on the field and Bey-Buie scored from 1 yard out to put Bettendorf up 14-0 with 5:09 left in the half.
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"They were able to control the ball a little bit with their short passing," Cedar Falls coach Brad Remmert said. "That scheme they've got is tough with the RPO, they're faking it and he has the opportunity to run or fake it and pass it, and it puts pressure on you, stretches you defensively."
The Tigers found their footing offensively on the next drive, helped by a 16-yard pass completion from Loecher to Daniel Hutchins on 4th and 4 that put Cedar Falls down to the Bettendorf 15.
Ryan Ostrich scored on the next play to cut the lead to 14-6 after a missed PAT with 1:42 left in the half.
The Bettendorf defense once again set up its offense as Reed Shea recovered a fumble forced by Kaden Klemme on the Tigers' first drive of the second half. Byrne hit AJ Douglas with a 13-yard touchdown pass to put Bettendorf up 21-6 with 7:34 left in the third quarter.
"Any time you can get your offense back on the field, keep your defense off, put some points on the board, that's what we like to do here," Shea said.
Cedar Falls cut the lead to 21-14 on a 35-yard pass from Loecher to Trey Campbell on 4th and 16 with 4:34 left in the third quarter but a 32-yard field goal from Shea with 24 seconds left in the frame put the Bulldogs up by 10.
Cedar Falls hadn't been held below 21 points all year but were held to 304 total yards and Loecher threw for just 201 on the night.
"We had film on them already, I think our coaches gave us a great game plan and we just executed what we needed to do," Shea said. "We all took (the first meeting) personally. Nobody on this team likes to lose. Everybody on here is super competitive so if we get a second chance, we're going to take it."
Cedar Falls had a couple more chances to get back into the game but Byrne intercepted Loecher on Cedar Falls' last drive to allow Bettendorf to ice the game, ending a seven-game losing streak at the UNI-Dome.
The Bulldogs hope that means they got the jitters out for next week.
"It's a 100-yard field but it's definitely a different place to play with the dome and the sound and the acoustics," Byrne said. "It's nice to get acclimated up here and we won't have any of those miscues that maybe we had in the first quarter of (last year's) semifinal game."