MONROE - Another remarkable individual performance, another strong defensive showing and another win for the West Marshall football team means another trip back to the UNI-Dome.
Dalton Ferch scored five touchdowns and ran for 208 yards while the Trojans defense weathered an early storm to help Class 2A No. 2 West Marshall past previously unbeaten No. 5 PCM, 41-14, Monday night to earn a trip to the semifinals of the state playoffs.
The Trojans (12-0) will meet No. 3 Spirit Lake (12-0) next Monday in Cedar Falls for a second-straight clash of still-perfect teams.
T-R PHOTO BY MARK PAWLAK
West Marshall’s Duncan Ferch is joined in celebration by teammates Devin Chesler (24) and Tanner Stalzer (44) after Ferch blocked a PCM punt during the second quarter of Monday’s Class 2A state football playoff quarterfinal game in Monroe. The second-ranked Trojans topped the fifth-ranked Mustangs, 41-14.
The senior all-stater Ferch has now scored 18 touchdowns through three games in the playoffs to help the Trojans stay undefeated and make their plans for the first trip to the UNI-Dome since 1999, when the Trojans claimed a state championship.
West Marshall came up a game short of the Dome last year in a loss to a North Polk team it had defeated earlier in the season.
"It's exciting because last year we lost this exact game, one step away," said Ferch, who eclisped the 2,000-yard mark for the season this night, "so we just came in this offseason, worked hard and it worked out tonight."
Ferch has rushed for 805 yards this postseason.
"We were pretty disappointed a year ago," said West Marshall head coach Ken Winkler. "So I think he's turned it up a notch here in the playoffs because of that."
After falling behind 14-7 late in the first quarter, West Marshall drove 73 yards to tie the game on a 2-yard Ferch plunge into the end zone.
The Trojans then pinned PCM (11-1) deep in its own territory and forced a three-and-out.
The Mustangs went to punt, but the kick was blocked by Duncan Ferch and recovered by Tanner Stalzer to set West Marshall up at the PCM 15.
"I just ran through (the blocker's) outside shoulder," said the sophomore Ferch. "I just dove and got it."
On the next play from scrimmage Duncan Ferch caught a 14-yard pass at the 1-yard line from Braydn Beals, who snuck it into the end zone on the next play to give West Marshall a 21-14 advantage.
PCM failed to get a first down on its ensuing possession, but was able to get a punt off down to the West Marshall 25.
On the next play, Beals delivered the ball to Dalton Ferch, who broke one tackle and raced down the sideline for a 75-yard score.
The Mustangs looked like they would be able to steal some momentum away going into halftime when Joel Wiggins rushed into the end zone with under a minute to play, but the score was taken off the board because of a holding penalty.
PCM lost yardage on its next three plays and attempted a field goal as time expired, but the kick was offline.
After the break, West Marshall embarked on a 13-play, 6 minute, 20 second drive that culminated in another Ferch touchdown to push its lead to three scores.
"That was pretty big," said Winkler of the long drive.
Ferch added a 10-yard score early in the fourth quarter to provide the final margin as the West Marshall defense pitched a second-half shutout for the second consecutive game.
"We were having trouble with the quarterback in the read-option in the first half and we had trouble with it in practice," said Winkler. "If you have trouble with your scout squad, you're probably going to have trouble with it in the game.
"We stayed with our assignments a little longer and made him delay his decision a little bit was the biggest thing (in the second half)."
PCM's 1,600-yard back, Hutch Burns, was limited to 76 yards on 24 carries by the West Marshall defense.
"He's the quickest back we've played this year," said Duncan Ferch.
Beals finished the night a perfect 7-of-7 passing for 156 yards and a touchdown.
"The passing game adds a lot because you can't really key on (Ferch)," said Winkler. "When we can throw it, it adds a lot to it. (Beals) had a good night. He made good decisions and was accurate."
Most of Beals' throws came as he rolled out of the pocket, adding a degree of difficulty to his tosses.
"I'm not the tallest guy in the world, so getting outside helps me a little bit," said Beals, who is generously listed a 6-foot. "With our speed and the weapons we have outside, (defenses) have to start backing up. And when they back it up, we have confidence that we can just power it straight up the middle. And when they start coming up, we have confidence we can throw it over the top.
"It's good that we can do both."
Having a back like Dalton Ferch that can do everything helps, too.
For the Trojans' first touchdown of the night, Ferch pummeled into the center of the Mustangs' line where he was wrapped up by 3 defenders before spinning out of the tackle and going 53 yards after most of the defense had stopped, thinking Ferch had been contained in one of the more dazzling touchdown runs for a player that has nearly 100 in his career.
"He's unbelievable right now," said Beals. "He's fun to play with."
West Marshall will face its fifth ranked and third unbeaten team of the season next week in Spirit Lake with a chance to move on to the state title game.
"It's a good feeling," said Winkler, who was at the helm in 1999 when West Marshall took the crown.
"We were pretty disappointed a year ago and that's been our goal all year, so it's a good feeling."