CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — There was no comeback this time for Exira-EHK.
No. 7 Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn broke away from the fourth-ranked Spartans with a 28-point second quarter Thursday and never looked back in its 61-22 victory in an Eight-Man semifinal at the UNI-Dome.
Tanner Utesch and Andrew Hoefling each ran for three touchdowns and Utesch threw for another for the Eagles, who are 13-0 under first-year head coach Kyle Oswald. MMC will play for the title next week.
Exira-EHK finishes its season at 12-1. It couldn't make up enough ground after falling behind.
“We were in a position to make plays, as far as tackles, and we weren't making the play,” Spartans coach Tom Petersen said.
After giving up a 63-yard touchdown run to Utesch less than a minute into the game, Exira-EHK took its only lead at 7-6 when Nick Peppers ran in from the 19 to cap a 10-play drive.
Hoefling raced 59 yards around the right end early in the second period, and it was all MMC from there. Utesch threw for a score and ran for another as his team built a 34-7 halftime lead.
Both Utesch and Hoefling topped the 100-yard mark on the ground in the win.
The Eagles were ranked the lowest of the seven unbeaten teams entering the Eight-Man playoffs. They'll face No. 3 Don Bosco (12-0), a 78-76 overtime winner over No. 2 Murray in Thursday's other semifinal, in next Thursday's championship game at 10 a.m.
“It starts with little things,” Oswald said. “If you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves.”
Exira-EHK had a chance to get back in the game early in the second half, cutting its deficit to 34-14 on a Drew Peppers 2-yard run on its opening drive of the third quarter. The Spartans then held MMC on downs at midfield, but they failed to move the ball.
“When you dig yourself in a hole, the farther along you go in the playoffs, the harder it's going to be to get out of,” Petersen said. “And we couldn't today.”
MMC (13-0).....................6 28 7 20—61
Exira-EHK (12-1).............7 0 7 8—22
MMC: Tanner Utesch 63 run (kick blocked)
E: Nick Pepper 19 run (Zach Klieforth kick)
MMC: Andrew Hoefling 59 run (pass failed)
MMC: Dylan Spieler 9 pass from Utesch (pass failed)
MMC: Hoefling 25 run (Utesch run)
MMC: Utesch 5 run (Jacob Meehan pass from Spieler)
E: Drew Peppers 2 run (Klieforth kick)
MMC: Hoefling 1 run (Spieler kick)
MMC: Utesch 6 run (pass failed)
E: N. Peppers 48 pass from D. Peppers (N. Peppers pass from D. Peppers)
MMC: Jacob Meehan 39 run (Spieler kick)
MMC: Conner Holmes 8 run (Spieler kick)
RUSHING: MMC, Hoefling 18-135, Utesch 10-101, Meehan 9-82, Holmes 3-9, Kach 2-7. E, D. Peppers 26-102, N. Peppers 11-62, Sander 11-59, Hansen 2-4.
PASSING: MMC, Utesch 9-15-0 107, Hoefling 1-1-0 10. E, D. Peppers 8-19-0 100, N. Peppers 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING: MMC, Petersen 6-71, Hueser 1-19, Utesch 1-10, Speiler 1-9, Gross 1-8. E, N. Peppers 6-84, Sander 2-16.