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The Fourth Winning Streak: 2007-2008

While THE FOURTH STREAK began on Friday, August 31st, 2007, the foundation for it was actually set nine and a half months earlier in 2006 when Bettendorf met Cedar Rapids Xavier in the Semifinal Round of the 4A playoffs.  The Bulldogs were on the verge of playing for the state championship as with less then 2 minutes in the game, they were tied with Xavier, 14-14.  Although the Bulldog’s offense had been mostly stifled by a stout Xavier defense, Bettendorf was playing their usual brand of grind-it-out  football and had taken the ball down the length of the field to Xavier’s 4-yard line; about to score, Bettendorf’s favorable circumstances abruptly reversed when on the ensuing play tailback Jake Eikenberry was hit during the quarterback-running back exchange and the ball hit the ground… and in a play since dubbed “The Immaculate Recovery,” the pigskin was scooped up by a Xavier defender who then to rambled 96-yards to the opposite end of the field to score and put Xavier up for good, 21-14.

From that lesson all Bulldogs learned to never take anything granted—and from the beginning of the 2007 season the team not only played with a chip on their shoulder, but also with a purpose:  to not only get to the state championship game, but to win it and reclaim the Destiny they seemingly had been denied the season before.

The 2007 squad was overabundant in talent and were led by a plethora of offensive players that included offensive linemen Dan Bettenhausen and Seth Mosbrucker—both of whom would protect junior quarterback Danny Tharp (128 completions for 1,903 yards, 15 TDs) who could easily handoff to running back Jake Eikenberry (135 carries for 1,004 yards, 16 TDs) as he could throw to Billy Rembold (51 receptions for 892 yards, 13 TDs), Carter Ridenour (36 receptions for 536 yards, 8 TDs), and Mitch Overstreet (19 receptions for 280 yards, 1 TD).  Defensively, the Bulldogs were led by ends Pete Kabler, Eric Speidel, and Adam Coleman, linebackers Anthony Losasso and Mitch Jurevitz, and backs Garrett Scott and Doug Smith.  On the same note, it would also be worth mentioning that punter Nate Meyer’s leg was an overlooked and underestimated weapon.The 2007 Bulldogs opened up their season with not only a #1-state ranking, but also a 62-0 blasting of Davenport West.  The following week the Bulldogs throttled Davenport North 50-0 and it wouldn’t be until the third game—against Davenport Assumption—that an opponent would score:  the Knights were led by running back Willie Argo—who eventually went on to break the M.A.C. touchdown record that season—but in this contest he was held in check as Bettendorf won, 21-14.   Having outscored their first three opponents 133-14, the Bulldogs then went on a five-game scoring spree that witnessed them scoring 250 points with wins over Burlington (49-20), Muscatine (47-10), Clinton (49-0), Davenport Central (56-14), and Pleasant Valley (49-0).

By the season finale Bettendorf was not only 8-0, but also the undisputed #1-team in Iowa.  The last game of the regular season was against North Scott who the year before not only had blanked the Bulldogs, 17-0, in the M.A.C. championship game, but also thoroughly embarrassed them.  However, it’s noteworthy to point out that while North Scott would finish the regular season 9-0, they lost to Iowa City High in the 1st Round of the Playoffs while the 8-1 Bulldogs advanced to the Semifinals.  This time around though, North Scott squad was no match for the Bulldogs who dismantled them 36-6 as they entered the playoffs as the team to beat in Class 4A.In the 1st Round the Bulldogs were paired with the Little Hawks of Iowa City High—a team they had faced the previous three seasons in the playoffs.  The Bulldogs and Little Hawks first met in the post-season in 1988 and since that initial game have had some classic contests such as Bettendorf’s 1989 come-from-behind 16-7 Quarterfinal victory, 1992’s “Banks vs. Dwight” Quarterfinal battle that Bettendorf won, 35-28, and the 17-13 loss 1st Round loss in 2005 that occurred in the final minute of the game.

The 2007 game would be no different as yet another street fight ensued and this contest was seemingly a war of attrition.  By the 3rd quarter, it was obvious that Bettendorf’s traditional platoon system was wearing down many of the Little Hawk’s two-way starters and despite a valiant effort by Iowa City, Bettendorf emerged as 31-28 victors.  In the Quarterfinals, the Bulldogs had to once again face Davenport Assumption and this time around the Bulldogs silenced all detractors who speculated that the Knights’ lone loss of the season was a fluke as Bettendorf easily won, 35-14.  Returning to the Semifinals for the third time in four years, the Bulldogs battled the Tigers of Cedar Falls in another classic match up that ended in regulation with a 0-0 tie.  In overtime, Cedar Valley was unable to score a touchdown and their 4th down field goal attempt was blocked by junior Kyle Lichtenberg.  Wasting no time, Bettendorf elected to kick a field goal on 1st down and Rembold’s successful kick gave the Bulldogs a 6-3 overtime victory and propelled them into the 4A state championship game.

Bettendorf entered the 4A title game with a 12-0 record and was playing for their second state title in four seasons.  Matched up against the Ankeny Hawks, this was not only the first meeting between the two teams, but also the first time since 1997 that the Hawks were playing for a state title.  Ankeny entered the game with both an 11-1 record and dangerous Power-T offense that had definitely peaked during the playoffs as indicated by their lopsided victories in the first two rounds.

On the third play of the opening series, Bettendorf running back Jared Masterson busted loose and rambled 59-yards down the sideline to Ankeny’s 3-yard line; two plays later Anthony Losasso—in for Jake Eikenberry who suffered a season-ending injury in the 1st Round game—scored to put Bettendorf ahead, 7-0.  Seemingly, Bettendorf was headed for a rout of Ankeny—but the game that followed was probably one of the best 4A title contests ever. 

Ankeny’s offense—a mixture of the Wing-T, Wishbone, and Belly series—virtually owned the field from their 5-yard line to the Bulldog’s 5-yard line and were able to run the ball at will and although Bettendorf’s defense slowed them down, the Hawks managed to rush for 5.1 yards per carry (for a game total of 287 yards).  After Ankeny tied the game 7-7, Bettendorf next scored on a 65-yard pass play from Tharp to Rembold to put Bettendorf up 14-7.  However, over the course of the game Ankeny’s run game took a toll on Bettendorf and although they couldn’t punch it into the endzone, the Hawks scored three-straight field goals to own a 16-14 lead with less two and a half minutes remaining in the contest.

After returning the kick to their own 20-yard line, Tharp went under center and with a tough Ankeny defense blanketing his receivers, threw three straight incomplete passes.  Obviously, the Bulldogs faced a dire situation:  down 16-14 and facing 4th and 10 from their own 20-yard line with literally two minutes left in the game, head coach Randy Scott had no choice but to go for it—and Tharp’s 23-yard completion to Rembold began one of the most memorable drives in Bettendorf history.  Tharp completed four straight passes to both Scott, Overstreet, and Ridenour while rushing for one yard to put the Bulldogs on Ankeny’s 19-yard line with  :24 seconds left in the game.  Then, in a brilliant tactical move, Bettendorf took a shot at the endzone—and to the surprise of everyone except the Bulldogs—Rembold caught the pass and with his successful extra point, put the Bulldogs ahead 21-16 with :12 seconds left in the game; three plays later Bettendorf won their seventh state championship in school history to cap Part I of the Fourth Streak.

Bettendorf players not only dominated the All-Conference squad, but also the annual All-State teams selected by the Des Moines Register and Iowa Newspaper Association:  1st team picks included Coleman, Scott, Mosbrucker, Losasso, and Meyer while Kabler and Rembold landed on the 2nd Team.  As well, Overstreet was a 3rd team selection and Bettenhausen earned Academic All-State honors.  Also, Randy Scott—who would retire from coaching shortly after the 2007 season—was named as the “M.A.C. Coach of the Year” while Tharp earned “Red Zone Player of the Year” honors.  As a team, Bettendorf was ranked #30 in the nation by MaxPreps, #32 by Student Sports, and the “Best Team in Iowa” by Sports Illustrated.

Part II of the Fourth Streak continued the following year when the Bettendorf opened up the 2008 season with a new head coach in Aaron Wiley who had served as an assistant since 1997; originally hired by former head coach Merv Habenicht, Wiley had served as the defensive coordinator for both Habenicht and Scott and under their tutelage was certainly ready to lead the Bulldogs into their next chapter of success.

Although the Bulldogs were the #1 ranked team in Iowa at the beginning of the season, it was a designation they would eventually lose to West Des Moines Valley based on comparative scores.  Regardless, a convincing 37-7 victory over Pleasant Valley was the fourteenth straight victim in the Fourth Streak and the following game Bettendorf mercilessly pounded Muscatine, 52-12.  However, unlike the season before in which the Bulldogs razored through the season, victories in the 2008 campaign didn’t come as easily:  although the final result of the third game was a 35-0 victory over Davenport North, the Week 4 game against Clinton wasn’t assured until the 4th quarter.  As well, the following game against North Scott witnessed the Bulldogs come-from-behind in the 3rd quarter to win, 24-16.  Nevertheless, Bettendorf still outplayed their opponents on a week-by-week basis and such victories included a 45-13 thrashing of Davenport West, a 42-0 drubbing of Davenport Central, and a 31-15 conquest over Burlington.  The season finale against Davenport Assumption ended in a 31-7 victory and the fact was Bettendorf had outscored their nine regular season opponents, 332-87—not a far cry from 2007’s 418-63 totals.

Bettendorf thus entered the playoffs with a perfect 9-0 record—joining only West Des Moines Valley and Iowa City High as the remaining undefeated teams in Class 4A.  However, playoffs state-wide had changed in format with the implementation of a Substate game which literally doubled the number of participants in 4A from 16 to 32 and critics—which were many—of the Substate game cited that the playoffs would now be “watered down” as a result of many 5-4 and some 4-5 teams now qualifying for the Substate game.

For the most part, the higher-seeded teams dominated their opponents except in a few cases—most notably, M.A.C teams suffered the brunt of the new Substate game:  North Scott, who ended the season with an 8-1 record, lost to Dubuque Wahlert who was one of the few 4-5 teams to qualify for the playoffs while 7-2 Burlington lost to 5-4 Dubuque Hempstead.  Bettendorf was paired against 4-5 Clinton—a team they had soundly defeated during the regular season but simply put, since Clinton had nothing to lose, they gave the Bulldogs a run for their money and with less than eight minutes remaining in the game, the River Kings owned a 21-20 lead.  In response the Bulldogs, as they had all season long, displayed their true grit and with a long drive, touchdown, and successful two-point conversion, eventually claimed a 28-21 victory that extended their winning streak to 23-straight games.  In the 1st Round game, the Bulldogs met Cedar Rapids Prairie—a team they had previously never played—and rebounded by thrashing the Hawks, 28-3, for their 24th-consecutive win.

In the Quarterfinals the Bulldogs had to travel to Cedar Rapids to take on Mississippi Valley foe the Washington Warriors who featured a dangerous spread offense.  Unfortunately, history does repeat itself and like the 1989 team twenty seasons before, the 2008 squad became their own worst enemy and committed five turnovers—four in the first half—and all four turnovers led to Warrior touchdowns.   Hence, in a strange land on Monday, November 7th, 2008, the Fourth Streak came to an abrupt end when Bettendorf lost to Washington, 48-27.

Post-season, Bulldogs dominated the All-Conference and All-Metro teams while five players earned 1st Team All-State honors:  Overstreet, Lichtenberg, wide receiver Pat Brown, punter Nate Meyer, and defensive lineman Casey Nabb.  As well, linebacker Mitch Jurevitz earned 3rd Team honors while Meyer and Overstreet became just the sixteenth and seventeenth players in Bettendorf history to earn All-State honors twice.

Since 1951, Bettendorf has won 423 games and 115 of those victories—27%—have been won in a row at one time or another over the course of eight seasons and five different decades.  Machiavelli said it best:  "Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past" and regarding another Bettendorf football winning streak, it would be neither arrogant nor overconfident to say as it has happened before, it will happen again.