WEST LIBERTY, Iowa — West Liberty is fully aware of where it stands ahead of tonight’s Class 2A semifinals at the UNI-Dome.
“You have No. 1 PCM (Prairie City-Monroe), No. 2 Boyden Hall and No. 3 Waukon,” West Liberty coach Jason Iske said of the other three teams still standing. “And then you have us (No. 16 West Liberty).”
The Comets know nobody is picking them. PCM hasn’t played a game decided by fewer than 21 points all season. And according to bcmoorerankings.com, a website that bases its game projections on computer analytics, top-ranked PCM is projected to win tonight’s 7 p.m. semifinal matchup over West Liberty by 23 points.
“The pressure is on (PCM), in my opinion,” West Liberty senior Spencer Daufeldt said. “They’re supposed to win it all. Aren’t we the No. 16 seed? 16 versus one, that puts it all on us.
“I like being the underdog.”
The underdog role certainly treated West Liberty well a week ago when it blasted No. 4 Benton Community, 42-14, to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1987. That team lost in the semifinals, but this West Liberty team is looking to pull off another upset.
“It’s a great thing for our community,” Iske said of getting to the UNI-Dome.
“I think everybody might be surprised at how many people we bring up there. We feel like it’s going to be West Liberty North up there in the Dome. I expect so many younger kids to be up there, even our younger kids. It just gives you hope, it makes you say, ‘Damn, we can do this too.’ That’s just a cool thing.”
Still, the Comets are looking for more than just an appearance in the UNI-Dome. West Liberty (8-3), which has won seven games in a row and given up just 7.8 points per game in that stretch, will be tasked with dealing with the top-ranked offense in the state in PCM.
“It’ll probably be the toughest challenge we’ve had this year,” Daufeldt said. “But at the same time, it’ll be fun. You need new challenges. I think our defense will hold up well, and I have confidence in all the other guys to make plays.”
The Mustangs (11-0) have scored at least 40 points in 10 of 11 games this season. Quarterback Reed Worth has passed for 2,065 yards and 25 touchdowns while Brayton VanDyle, Preston VanWyke, Wes Cummings, Jarron Trahsch and Isaac Telfer all have more than 300 yards receiving.
Cummings also has 1,434 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground while Worth has proven to be a dual-threat quarterback with 832 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.
“The number one thing that stands out is speed,” Iske said of PCM’s offense. “They have guys who can turn a 2-yard play into a 52-yard play in a hurry.”
However, Iske says he hopes his West Liberty offense can cause the same problems for a PCM defense that has surrendered just 9.2 points per game in addition to intercepting 17 passes.
“Their outside guys all have great speed,” Iske said. “They play the ball extremely well whether it’s run or pass. It seems like every pass play they have three guys to the ball.”
The Comets are led by quarterback Seth Feldman’s 1,485 passing yards, 664 rushing yards and 33 total touchdowns. Lake Newton is the top receiving threat with 546 yards and five touchdowns. Will Esmoil and Talen Dengler have 304 and 291 yards, respectively, to round out a receiving group with a propensity for making explosive plays.
Senior running back Gabriel Melendez has 474 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the season and is one week removed from a season-high 118 rushing yards against Benton.
“I feel like we’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Iske said. “If our offense can just keep getting chunks and not turn the ball over that’s going to be our ticket.”
Defensively, the formula is the same: play assignment football. If the Comets can do that, Iske will put his underdog squad up against anybody.
“I think if everybody (in the locker room) had their pick they’d take us,” Iske said. “Let’s just say I hope that’s the case.”