MONROE — Wes Cummings and his senior classmates at PCM talked about playing in the UNI-Dome way back in seventh grade.
It’s been a long time coming, but the top-ranked Mustang football team realized their dreams on Nov. 2 when they claimed a 55-34 win over Williamsburg in a Class 2A quarterfinal match.
PCM will take an 11-0 record to the dome for next week’s state semifinals.
“I remember our seventh grade year, we actually ended a practice with ‘Dome on three,’” Cummings said. “We’ve had our eyes set on this prize for a long time. We’ve fallen short in football and other sports the last few years, but it feels nice to win the big one for once.”
PCM jumped out to a big lead and then held off upset-minded Williamsburg with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
It will be the third visit to the UNI-Dome for PCM. The Mustangs’ only other trips to the state semifinals came in 2005 and 2006.
“It feels great. I am real happy for the guys,” PCM coach Greg Bonnett said.
“There are things to improve on, but I want to enjoy this moment like I tell my guys so that’s what I am going to do.”
Cummings, a senior tailback, won the head-to-head battle with Williamsburg tailback Gage Hazen-Fabor. Cummings finished with 191 rushing yards and one touchdown, and PCM tallied a school-record 569 total yards in the win.
Hazen-Fabor was held under 50 yards in the first half but got loose for a 55-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that made it 41-13.
Hazen-Fabor finished with 157 rushing yards and two TDs on 31 carries.
Hazen-Fabor came into the game with the second most rushing yards in 2A. He caps his final high school season with 2,178 yards and 26 rushing TDs.
Cummings now has 1,434 rushing yards and 22 rushing TDs on the season.
“Tomorrow I will be sore, but today I am just thankful for my teammates,” Cummings said. “The coaches prepared me for this. It’s been four years. It’s not just this team. It’s been the last four teams that we’ve played on that has built us for this moment. I owe it all to everyone else. Without my teammates, I wouldn’t be where I am.”
Senior Jarron Trausch had 62 rushing yards and three touchdowns on five carries in the first half.
Senior quarterback Reed Worth threw his second and third interceptions of the season but also finished with 218 passing yards, 92 rushing yards and four total TDs.
Worth now has 832 rushing yards on the season.
Williamsburg (7-4) gained 370 yards of total offense in the loss. It was the Raiders’ first defeat since Sept. 7. Williamsburg lost its first three games of 2018 before entering the Nov. 2 game on a seven-game win streak.
“Hazen-Fabor is a really good player. We knew he would get loose a few times, and he did,” Bonnett said. “We were just hoping he wouldn’t go off for five or six touchdowns. We also had a heck of a time covering their receivers. We were right there a lot of times. They would go up and just take it from us.”
Williamsburg threw for 222 yards in the loss. Jordan Martin hooked up with Kaden Wetjen for 122 yards and three touchdowns. The Mustangs had good coverage on all three completed passes.
Bonnett made no excuses but did say getting senior end Cole Dustin back next week will alleviate some of the issues. Dustin missed the game after getting ejected in last week’s opening-round win over Carroll Kuemper.
“Ultimately, we’ll take it this time of year. Williamsburg is a great team, but we held on,” Bonnett said.
The PCM defense gave up a season-high 34 points and a season-high 370 total yards but forced a pair of first-half turnovers. The defense also forced Williamsburg into a turnover on downs following Worth’s second interception in the third quarter.
The Raiders started with the ball on the PCM 33-yard line but gained only nine yards in four plays.
PCM’s offense then marched 75 yards to paydirt to go up 49-20. All 75 of those yards came on the ground with Cummings gaining 70 by himself. Worth capped that drive with a 1-yard TD plunge.
Worth then finished off the victory late in the fourth quarter with a 20-yard TD run.
“Wes and Reed make everything work. If Wes gets the ball, he makes plays. That’s just what he does,” senior offensive lineman Andrew Van Ryswyk said.
The Mustangs rushed for 351 yards on the night. Cummings got 117 of his yards in the second half and 65 came in the fourth quarter.
“In the fourth quarter, I got on the headset and said that I wanted the ball in Wes Cummings’ hands,” Bonnett said. “I wanted him to take the ball from now on. I knew he wouldn’t let us down.”
Cummings fumbled twice in last year’s playoff loss to Williamsburg.
The senior tailback definitely remembered that night but didn’t think about the turnovers when this year’s game kicked off.
“Every day in practice Bonnett hits the ball and smacks at it, trying to make sure that I don’t fumble again,” Cummings said. “I definitely remember last year’s game. I got a new pair of gloves, and it wasn’t on my mind during the game. I just played football.”
Seniors Nick Buswell and Payton Strovers got interceptions on Williamsburg’s first two offensive series. The Mustang offense, which ranks No. 1 in 2A, scored both times to go up 14-0.
Trausch put PCM on the board with a 19-yard TD run and then he scored again from 1-yard out on the next drive.
Williamsburg had trouble with the snap during a punt attempt on fourth down on its next possession. That gave the Mustangs a short field, and PCM drove 20 yards in six plays, capped by Cummings’ 1-yard TD run.
“Wes gives 100 percent no matter what. He never lets up and works so hard,” senior Olin Meinders said. “He earns everything he gets. He still has the humility to thank his offensive line every chance he gets. It was so fun watching him run wild tonight.”
PCM forced a turnover on downs on Williamsburg’s ensuing possession.
Williamsburg gained nearly 50 yards on the drive, but the Mustangs held the Raiders on fourth down and began their next drive on their own 6-yard line.
They scored one play later when Worth hooked up with senior Brayton Van Dyke for a 94-yard TD to make it 28-0.
Another Trausch TD, this time on a 15-yard run, made it 35-7 at halftime.
“We were in a good spot, but we knew we had to finish because we were up on them last year, too,” senior Isaac Telfer said. “That was in the back of our minds. We knew we had to finish strong.”
PCM scored on its first drive of the second half when Worth connected with Telfer for a 2-yard TD. A missed extra point prevented the Mustangs from triggering the continuous clock though.
“They were playing up because we were running the ball so well,” said Telfer, who had 61 yards on three catches. “I was able to slip behind the defense and Reed put it right on me.”
Williamsburg closed the gap with back-to-back scoring drives in the third quarter. The first one came off Worth’s second pick of the season. The Raiders scored two more times in the fourth, but the final TD came with 14 seconds to play in the game.
“We felt good, but we knew we couldn’t let up,” Meinders said. “Hazen-Fabor is a good running back, and he could be a game breaker. We knew we had to keep him in check. They kept fighting. They are a good team.”
Meinders said the thought of playing in the UNI-Dome some day has always been a picture inside his head. But as the final seconds ticked away on Nov. 2, reality of the Mustangs actually getting to play on the famous turf field began to sink in.
“We are fulfilling our destiny. You picture it in your head, and it’s so great. For it to come to life, it’s better than you could ever imagine,” Meinders said. “That feeling from last year was hard. We were so close and came up short. They made things interesting there, but in the final minute, we knew it was done and it was going to happen.”
Senior Brycen Rogers led the defense with 9 1/2 tackles. Trausch had 7 1/2 tackles, Buswell tallied seven tackles and one interception and Strovers collected 6 1/2 tackles and a pick.
Telfer finished with six tackles, Van Ryswyk had five tackles, junior Seth Greiner pitched in 4 1/2 tackles and Meinders added four tackles.
The Mustang defense had 11 tackles for loss on the night and now has 71 solo tackles on the season.
PCM faces West Liberty (8-3) in the second semifinal at 7 p.m. on Nov. 10. The other 2A semifinal game is No. 2 Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley against No. 3 and defending champion Waukon at 4 p.m. on Nov. 10.
“We have been dreaming about this since middle school,” Van Ryswyk said. “Coach Bonnett had us focused all week. We knew what we had to do.”