Top-ranked Ar-We-Va’s bid to reach the UNI-Dome for the first time since 2007 came up just short on Friday night, as the Rockets lost an agonizing 46-44 decision to No. 4 Southeast Warren in an Eight-Man Playoff quarterfinal contest at Westside.
It was the first loss of the season for Ar-We-Va, which finished 10-1 overall under fifth-year head coach Chris Petersen.
With the win, Southeast Warren improved to 12-0 and will take on unranked Rockford (10-1) in a state semifinal game on Thursday at the UNI-Dome at Cedar Falls at 9 a.m.
Rockford advanced to the semifinal round with a 32-26 victory over No. 3 Don Bosco in a quarterfinal affair on Friday night.
Predicted to be a shootout, Friday’s matchup between Ar-We-Va and Southeast Warren was all that and more, especially in the first half, as the two teams combined for 62 points with the Rockets holding a 38-24 advantage at halftime.
Ar-We-Va led 9-0 just three minutes into the game.
Drew Schurke scored on a 16-yard run with 11:54 left and added the PAT kick to make it 7-0.
A bad snap over Southwest Warren’s Colby Page in the end zone resulted in a safety on Southeast Warren’s initial drive with 9:12 left.
Southeast Warren then scored twice over the final 7:20 of the first quarter to take a 12-9 lead into the second.
The two teams combined for 41 points in the second period.
Ar-We-Va led 24-12 with 10 minutes left after a Schurke 25-yard TD completion from quarterback Keegan Simons and a Schurke four-yard scoring run.
Southeast Webster came back with a 38-yard TD pass from Page to Kaleb Bauer to make it 24-18 with 7:06 left.
Simons and Schurke then hooked up again from six yards out with 4:17 left to make it 30-18 Rockets.
Another Page-to-Bauer TD pass of 55 yards with 3:23 left made it 30-24.
Then with just 44 seconds left before halftime, Simons scored on a two-yard run and connected with Schurke for the two-point conversion pass to make it 38-24 at the break.
Both defenses stepped up in the third quarter, as neither team found the end zone, leaving the advantage at 14 points for Ar-We-Va entering the final 12 minutes of play.
Ar-We-Va scored on its first drive of the fourth quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Simons to take a 20-point lead at 44-24 with 10:32 remaining to play.
It was all Southeast Warren after that, though, as the visiting Warhawks scored the game’s final 22 points en route to the win.
Ar-We-Va led 44-38 late when Southeast Warren’s Page hooked up with Bauer for a 22-yard scoring pass to tie the game at 44-44 with just 1:05 left.
Page then hit Alex Hommer in the back of the end zone with the huge two-point conversion pass to put the Warhawks up by two.
Ar-We-Va’s last drive got the Rockets down to the Southeast Warren 15-yard line.
Facing a fourth-and-one situation, Ar-We-Va elected to kick a field goal for the win, but the 32-yard effort by senior Drew Schurke with just 13 seconds left on the clock was blocked by a contingent of Warhawk defenders.
Southeast Warren regained possession and Page took a knee on first down in running out the clock for the triumph that advanced the Warhawks to Cedar Falls in the school’s first season as an Eight-Man program.
"This was a heartbreaking loss for our kids. It was a game that appeared to be in hand until the very end when we had a chance to win with a field goal. However, it wasn’t in the cards for us Friday night," commented Petersen.
"As tough of a loss as it was, these kids had a remarkable and extremely memorable season. They won the district, going 9-0 and a first-round playoff game to extend their record to 10-0 before this loss."
"Most importantly, the character and work ethic of these kids was tremendous from June until November," Petersen added.
Southeast Warren rang up 506 total yards in all.
On the night, Page completed 22-of-43 passes for 322 yards with six TD throws and one interception.
Five of his scoring passes went to Bauer, who caught 10 balls on the night for 206 yards.
Freshman Cade Nelson also caught eight passes for 76 yards for the winners.
The Warhawks ran for 184 yards, as Hommer led the way with 24 rushes for 90 yards and a one-yard TD run to his credit in the second quarter.
Hommer also was on the end of a seven-yard TD throw from Page in the fourth quarter that pulled his team to within 44-38 with 2:37 left to play.
Page carried the ball 19 times for 84 yards in the contest.
For Ar-We-Va, Simons ran the ball 15 times for 70 yards with a pair of rushing TDs.
Simons also was 15-of-27 for 226 yards with two TD throws in the passing department, as he concluded his final season throwing for 2,024 yards with 29 TDs and only three interceptions.
Schurke rushed 14 times for 90 yards with two TD runs and hauled in seven passes for 69 yards with a pair of TD catches in his final game.
Senior Derek Oeser also had two catches for 49 yards before leaving the game for good late inthe first quarter with a hip injury.
Freshman Will Ragaller finished with three pass receptions for 88 yards as well.
Defensively, Simons led with 10.5 tackles. Ragaller added 10 tackles with an interception.
Senior Ben Von Glan had 9.5 tackles. Senior Wyatt Neumann also had nine tackles. Freshman Damon Ehlers also had six tackles.
Junior Dalton Ehlers wound up with five tackles and a quarterback sack.
"It was difficult to go out the way that we did, but there are so many more important things to take from the game of football than wins or losses. These kids were the epitome of character," Petersen said.
"I would put their work ethic up against any team in the state. More importantly, they embraced the idea of playing as a team."
"It truly was a family atmosphere and brotherhood every single day in practice and at games. I know these kids will take the lesson they learned on the field and apply them to their lives," Petersen stated.