FORT DODGE - Eagle Grove clinched the 2009 Class 2A District 2 football championship with a 45-18 victory over Cherokee here Friday night, in a game moved from Eagle Grove to Fort Dodge Dodger Stadium and its artificial field turf because of recent heavy rains that have rendered many Northwest Iowa natural grass fields unplayable.
With the loss, Cherokee finishes regular season with 5-2 District record (6-3 over all) and casts the Braves into the State Playoffs at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hull Western Christian (6-1, 8-1). HWC finished runner-up in its District to undefeated champion Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, while the Braves were third in their District to Champion Eagle Grove and runner-up Pocahontas Area/Pomeroy-Palmer, the only other team to beat Cherokee in District play.
The Eagle Grove rushing attack and its fierce offensive line was too much for the Braves this night as the Eagles rushed 47 times for a whopping 478 yards, with Markus Gatewood leading the way with 19 carries and 170 yards, and Jade Zable rushing five times for 120 yards.
The Braves rushed 30 times for just 92 yards, with Cutter Carlson leading the way with nine carries for 61 yards, Kristian Freed carrying it six times for 19 yards, and Nick Parker rushing three times for 13 yards.
Cherokee quarterback Matt Pitts was 10-26 passing for 212 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Eagle QB Randy Wooster was 5-14 passing for 135 yards, one TD, and one pick. Parker led Cherokee receivers with five catches for 137 yards and one TD, and Kyle Schuck had four catches for 72 yards and one TD.
Eagle TDs were Wooster passing to Tom Yackle for 55 yards, Austin Gambrill on a 24-yard run late in the first half that turned the momentum and gave EG a 12-0 halftime lead, Wooster's 15-yard TD run in the third frame, Wooster's 20-yard run, Zable's 87-yard kick-off return that deflated the Braves after they had just scored a TD to make it 23-12, Zable's 45-yard TD run, and Wooster's 69-yard punt return that iced it.
Cherokee scored twice in the third and once in the fourth quarter, including Pitts to Schuck on a 40-yard TD pass, Pitts to Parker on a 35-yard TD pass, and Jeremy Werthman's 61-yard TD return of an Eagle fumble.
Freed and Carlson had fumble recoveries along with Werthman, and Seth Mahnke had an interception for the Braves defense.
Carlson led Cherokee tacklers with 10 while Werthman and Freed were in on eight apiece. The Braves managed just nine first downs, compared to 19 for Eagle Grove.
"We had our opportunities, especially in the first half," said Cherokee co-head coach Kurt Reynolds. "First-half penalties killed us and stopped a couple real good drives we had going. We moved the ball and the kids played hard, but those early penalties really hurt.
"We knew how tough they were and how good a ground game they had. Our defense played great early, but then that kick-off return for a TD after we scored in the third quarter to close the gap just zapped us. It was a good effort against a really good team."
Cherokee was whistled eight times for 75 yards, and Eagle Grove nine times for 80 yards.
"We'll go to work and get ready for the Playoffs. Hull Western Christian is tough so we know we'll have to play like we're capable of if we want to win and advance."