Spartans smash Sailors in semis

Grundy Center earns fifth-straight title game by blasting Waterloo Columbus

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Grundy Center head coach Travis Zajac, center, acknowledges the Spartans' fans after Friday's 42-7 triumph over Waterloo Columbus in the Class 1A state football semifinals at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls

CEDAR FALLS – For the second week in a row, Grundy Center football players feel like they’ve silenced any who would second-guess the Spartans.

No. 1 Grundy Center smashed Waterloo Columbus, 42-7, in a Class 1A semifinal at the UNI-Dome on Friday morning, rolling on to the school’s fifth title game appearance in a row.

The Spartans (12-0) will return to the Dome at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, facing MFL MarMac (11-1) for the 1A title. MFL MarMac defeated Underwood 41-28 in the other semifinal.

“It means an awful lot,” Grundy Center head coach Travis Zajac said of the five years of championship appearances. “The amount of sacrifice so many people put into our program to get our kids back to compete at the biggest stage, there’s an overabundance of pride and gratitude in my heart.”

Columbus was perhaps the team that most pushed Grundy Center to its limits during the regular season, with the Spartans escaping Waterloo with a 21-14 win on Sept. 21 with the help of two defensive touchdowns.

While the Spartans still brought a strong defensive front, it was the offense that fired away on the Sailors, racking up 391 yards of total offense and only punting once.

A week after a 40-0 romp over a Dike-New Hartford that narrowly lost to Grundy Center earlier in the season, the Spartans made it clear those previous close calls put a chip on their shoulders.

“It felt like everyone had excuses for why we beat them the first time,” Grundy Center senior Justin Knaack said. “We wanted to prove that first time wasn’t a fluke.”

Much like the D-NH game, the big difference in this rematch was a fast start for the Spartans.

“The message all week was just to be strong,” said Grundy Center senior Trent Cakerice. “We’re used to being down here, and we know they weren’t.”

Grundy Center received the opening kick and scored on an 11-play, 67-yard drive capped by Knaack bouncing in for a 9-yard score.

After a Sailors three-and-out, Colin Gordon completed a pass to Tate Jirovsky for a 15-yard score for a 14-0 lead.

Columbus responded at the start of the second quarter with a Carter Lockert touchdown run on a drive aided by a Grundy Center pass interference flag on what would’ve been an incomplete pass on 3rd-long.

The Spartans hit right back, with a 42-yard diving catch by Tanner Laube eventually setting up a Tiernan Vokes 20-yard touchdown grab in tight coverage and a 21-7 lead with under five minutes to halftime.

“We expected a lot of man-to-man defense out of them,” Gordon said. “And if you’re going to play man against us, you better buckle up, because we’ve got some good athletes on the outside, some state track guys.”

Grundy Center’s only punt of the day came on a drive following a Tate Jirovsky interception, and the Sailors couldn’t get anything out of it before the halftime whistle.

“We were physical up front. Columbus is really good up front, and our kids took on that challenge,” Grundy Center head coach Travis Zajac said. “It was the same thing as last week, Dike really handled us in week one, and Columbus did that in week five, so establishing the line of scrimmage was what stood out to me.”

After an early stop, Gordon rushed in for a third-quarter score, then reeled in an interception that led to another touchdown rush that effectively sunk any Sailor comeback hopes.

Gordon completed 17-of-20 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 13 times for 71 yards and two more scores.

“I’m biased, but I think he’s the best player in the state regardless of class,” Zajac said. “He does everything for us and he comes from a really good family that is willing to do anything to help that kid be successful. And when he’s willing to lay it on the line for us, you can’t help but root for the kid.”

Brody Zinkula gained 94 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown and Justin Knaack carried 10 times for 60 yards and a score and added six catches for 36 yards in the passing game.

“Our line gets a lot of movement up there,” Knaack said. “I’m just a little guy shifting around in there, but they make me look good.”

Tate Jirovsky hauled in four catches for 36 yards and a score and Tiernan Vokes made three catches for 31 yards and a score.

Defensively, the Spartans limited the Sailors to 141 yards of total offense with two interceptions. Vokes had two tackles for loss and Knaack and Laube logged one tackle for loss each.

Grundy Center’s 25-game winning streak, and a chance at back-to-back state championships, will be on the line on Thursday.

“We need to play the same but better,” Cakerice said. “More physical, more effort.”

State Football Playoffs


At UNI-Dome, Cedar Falls

Wednesday, Nov. 8


Bishop Garrigan 34, Winfield-Mt. Union 20

Bedford 31, Gladbrook-Reinbeck 30

Thursday, Nov. 9


West Hancock 39, Madrid 14

Woodbury Central 28, East Buchanan 20


Lewis Central 31, North Polk 5

Western Dubuque 28, Bondurant-Farrar 21

Friday, Nov. 10


Grundy Center 42, Waterloo Columbus 7

MFL MarMac 41, Underwood 28


Southeast Polk 30, West Des Moines Valley 27, OT

Ankeny 10, Ankeny Centennial 7

Saturday, Nov. 11


Van Meter 35, Monticello 21

CLGLR 28, Spirit Lake 14


Sioux City Bishop Heelan 16, Creston 13

Williamsburg 35, Solon 14

Grundy Center 42, Waterloo Columbus 7

W.COL 0 7 0 0 — 7

GC 14 7 7 14 — 42

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

GC — Justin Knaack 9 run (Colin Gordon kick), 6:30.

GC — Tate Jirovsky 15 pass from Gordon (Gordon kick), 1:13.

Second Quarter

WC — Carter Lockert 5 run (Thomas Steele kick), 8:48.

GC — Tiernan Vokes 20 pass from Gordon (Gordon kick), 4:51.

Third Quarter

GC — Gordon 3 run (Gordon kick), 4:22.

Fourth Quarter

GC — Gordon 4 run (Gordon kick), 9:17.

GC — Brody Zinkula 1 run (Gordon kick), 2:15.



First downs 7 23

Rushes-yards 20-56 40-227

Passing yards 85 164

Comp-Att-Int 8-15-2 17-20-0

Total offense 141 391

Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0

Penalties-yards 6-40 6-70

Time of Poss. 18:34 29:26


RUSHING — WC: Parker Kjeldsen 11-43, Lockert 7-25, TEAM 1-(minus-5), Myles Gardner 1-(minus-7); GC: Zinkula 14-94, Gordon 13-71, J. Knaack 10-60, Tanner Laube 2-4, TEAM 1-(minus-2).

PASSING — WC: Lockert 8-15-85-2; GC: Gordon 17-20-164-0.

RECEIVING — WC: Steele 4-40, Aiden Hosch 1-32, Gardner 1-5, Nick Merrifield 1-4, Kjeldsen 1-4; GC: Laube 1-42, J. Knaack 6-36, T. Jirovsky 4-36, Vokes 3-31, Zinkula 1-7, Judd Jirovsky 1-7, Dylan Knaack 1-5.


Thursday, Nov. 16


Bishop Garrigan, Algona (11-1) vs. Bedford (12-0), 9:30 a.m.


West Hancock (11-1) vs. Woodbury Central (12-0), 1 p.m.


MFL MarMac (11-1) vs. Grundy Center (12-0), 4 p.m.


Lewis Central (10-2) vs. Western Dubuque (11-1), 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 17


Van Meter (12-0) vs. Central Lyon/George-Little Rock (12-0), 10 a.m.


Sioux City Bishop Heelan (11-1) vs. Williamsburg (11-1), 1 p.m.


Southeast Polk (12-0) vs. Ankeny (9-3), 7 p.m.


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