Jack Menster stiff arms a Regina defender.

Undefeated Iowa City Regina used big plays and timely defensive stops to eliminate the Cascade Cougars, 41-19, in a first-round playoff game on a chilly Friday night in Iowa City. Cascade played its most complete game of the season, but Regina was the more consistent team.

“To our players credit, we battled to the last whistle,” Cascade coach Tim Frake said. “We made some plays but not enough against a quality opponent. We talked about being consistent all year long and to beat the really good teams we needed to eliminate our mistakes and capitalize on theirs.

“We had chances early to get off the field defensively on a few drives when we had them in 3rd/4th and long but didn’t get the stop we needed. And offensively we missed on some opportunities to convert when we were in the red zone or had the chances to make big plays.

The Regals struck quickly on a 65-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play to take a 7-0 lead. The Cougars replied with a long drive that saw them move the ball inside the Regina five but eventually turned it over on downs. Regina went on its own long march, also stopped on downs at the Cascade seven. Regina kept the Cougars bottled up and forced a punt. The kick was short and the Regals were in business at the Cascade 34. They eventually converted for their second touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Regina’s biggest mistake came on the ensuing kickoff when they kicked the ball to Cougar Jack Menster who returned the ball 91 yards for a touchdown. Menster started up the middle, saw a hole open to his right and sliced through it at top speed to run away from Regal tacklers. The Menster dash pulled the Cougars to 14-6.

Regina snuffed out Cascade’s momentum on its next two drives, going 68 and 42 yards respectively late in the second quarter to take a 27-6 lead into halftime.

The teams traded turnovers in the third quarter with the most damaging one being a Regina interception of a Justin Roling pass returned 65 yards for a touchdown. Roling, who had his best game of the season Friday night, was hit as he threw, causing the ball to wobble into the hands of a Regina defender. The pick-six made the score 34-6 and officially put the game out of reach. Roling and the Cougars kept fighting in the fourth with Roling finding senior wide receiver Isaac Nava for 19 and 52-yard touchdowns.

On a night the Cougars finally unlocked big plays in their passing game, Menster was held under 100 yards rushing with no rushing touchdowns. Outside of the big play at the game’s start the Cougar defense was physical and forced Regina into long down-and-distance situations on many occasions but were let down by missed tackles. Cascade scored in diverse fashion and showed toughness on defense but came up short against the 2020 champions who are undefeated and marching towards another title.

The Cougars finished the season with a record of 4-5.

“Every year it is hard to have the season end and we are going to miss this year’s seniors. We didn’t have the season we were hoping for but with a 4-5 record, all five losses are to opponents we are playing in the second round of playoffs,” Frake said.

Cascade’s leaders were: rushing — Menster 16-for-72, Justin Roling 4-for-20, Tanner Simon 3-for-15; passing — Roling 13-for-32 for 227 yards, two TDs, one INT; receiving — Isaac Nave 4-for-133, two TDs, Cass Hoffman 3-for-45, Luke Ruggeberg 3-for-26, Simon 2-for-13, Menster 2-for-10; punts — Will Hosch 2-for-63; kicking — Tyson Hill 1-of-3 PATs; kick returns — Menster 2-for-107, TD, =Simon 3-for-60, Hosch 1-for-12, Hoffman 1-for-10; tackles — Ty Frasher 7 (two solo), Ruggeberg six (four) Keagan Lamey six (four), Hoffman six (two), Menster five (three), Cade Rausch five (three), Brennan Booth five, (second), Simon four (three), Cole McDermott four (one), Mitch Bergfield three (two), Kody Miles three, Trever Freiburger two (one), Nava and Kaden Callahan one (one).