Cedar Falls, IA- This one will sting for Winfield-Mt. Union. Their undefeated season became no more in the span of a little over two and a half hours. An offseason and season full of bumps, bruises, and triumphs finished before the championship game as Bishop Garrigan pulled off another upset.
Off the back of 28 unanswered points in the second half, the Golden Bears won the game 34-20 and moved on to their fifth championship game in their program’s history.
Nevertheless, that’s not how the game started and as Winfield-Mt. Union’s Head Coach Scott McCarty stated after the game, the Wolves threw the first couple of haymakers,
“We told our kids in pregame, don’t wait to be great, you know, and I thought that they did a really nice job of coming out and we talked about writing our own story, I just thought they did a real nice job of that.”
It was the Wolves defense that set the stage early with multiple fourth down stops and two takeaways—senior Cole Milks interception and a Carter Loyd, senior, fumble recovery—highlighting the first half.
Junior quarterback Jake Edwards’ deep passing attack set the Wolves offense up nicely. A 37-yard pitch-and-catch to Carter Loyd put the ball at the two-yard line, which Cam Buffington, senior, piled in for a touchdown.
Buffington would find paydirt again to begin the second quarter from seven yards out to give the Wolves a 12 to 0 lead.
A minute after Bishop Garrigan cut the lead in half, Jake Edwards lofted a perfect ball to senior Abram Edwards for a 31-yard touchdown strike to give the Wolves an 18 to 6 lead, which was extended to 20 to 6 after converting a two-point conversion.
The Golden Bears flipped the script in the second half as the physicality of the game was slowing down an already injured Wolves squad. Abram Edwards commented on his team’s willingness to keep stepping up despite injury,
“Shows just how tough we are and how much we truly want it. Something we felt like we deserved, just couldn’t make it happen.”
The Golden Bears leaned on Caden Roethler for the entire second half as he totaled 181 of the teams’ 270 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his MVP performance. Ethan Maros, the fullback for Bishop Garrigan, was a wrecking ball, clearing lanes for Roethler.
“Big doesn’t wear down,” said Coach McCarty after the game. “I thought that they [Bishop Garrigan] were a big physical team and I thought that they did a very nice job of playing big and physical, you know. Their fullback was as big as you can get… but they did a really good job of being simple and being really good at being simple behind their pads.”
Additionally, two costly turnovers for the Wolves derailed promising drives that kept them off the board in the second half. A late injury to Cam Buffington seemed to have ended his season earlier than the clock had, but his perseverance saw him enter as a nose guard on the last drive of the game.
“I didn’t want to quit,” stated an emotional Buffington. “I wanted to be in there with my brothers, so I didn’t want to quit. You know, it hurt, but I couldn’t move, so put me at nose, I didn’t want to quit.”
Abram Edwards and Cole Milks echoed a similar mentality in their postgame answers. A brotherhood formed and evolved ever since they started playing sports together at a young age and no one was going to give up the chance to continue playing.
The season may end here for Winfield-Mt. Union but an 11-1 record and a trip to the semifinals will always be remembered within the community and that brotherhood.