The Waterloo Bulldogs enter their regular-season finale at 7 p.m. Friday at Mater Dei knowing they have sealed a berth in the Class 5A playoffs.
But the Bulldogs (5-3), whose 42 playoff points are above the 38 or 39 typically needed, prefer to do all they can to possibly earn a first-round home game. Defeating Mater Dei (4-4) and keeping the Knights out of the Class 4A playoffs isn’t Waterloo’s motivation.
“It’s more to get to 6-3 rather than to eliminate somebody,” Bulldogs coach Dan Rose said. “There’s a very outside chance of (getting) a home playoff game. We’ve hosted playoff games at 6-3 before.”
Waterloo has defeated Mater Dei the last two years, 28-21 in 2015 and 40-32 in 2014. The Knights have a whopping 53 playoff points, most in the state, so they would easily qualify for the postseason by defeating the Bulldogs to get to 5-4.
“Usually, that’s the case going into the Waterloo game,” Knights coach Jim Stiebel said. “We’re both right there. It’s win or go home for us.”
Waterloo will be playing its first game since the death of senior lineman David Woodall, who had been one of the Bulldogs’ defensive mainstays with 44 tackles and four sacks.
Scouting the Knights
Mater Dei averages 32 points a game. Rose said the challenge is great for the Bulldogs from a defensive standpoint.
“They’ve got a good quarterback and they throw it well,” Rose said of senior Colin Schuetz, who has passed for 1,472 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 704 yards along with six TDs. “We’re going to have to defend the field.”
Stiebel said Schuetz is like having another coach on the field.
“He’s been outstanding,” Stiebel said. “He’s an extension of a coach back there. He’s been great for us the last two years. He’s comes prepared every day.”
Mater Dei’s receiving corps is led by sophomore Jake Timmermann (34 catches, 427 yards, eight TDs) and junior Lucas Theising (33 catches, 393 yards, seven TDs). Seniors Jared Niemeyer (16 catches, 216 yards) and Matt Spears (12 catches, 246 yards, three TDs) add depth.
“We have to be able to defend the perimeter with the screen game,” Rose said. “We have to be able to defend their counter-trap game up the middle while we’re defending the screen game at the same time. They have a lot of run-pass options off each play. You have to defend every gap across the front and defend the screens at the same time.”
Senior Jake Wieter (639 yards, eight TDs) is the Knights’ running back.
Defensively, senior linebacker Trever Johnson has 60 tackles and four sacks.
Scouting the Bulldogs
Senior quarterback Ross Schrader is 55-for-118 for 699 yards and four TDs, with his top target being senior Kyle Knefelkamp (22 catches, 412 yards, three TDs).
The Bulldogs prefer to run the ball with senior Scott Nanney (671 yards, five TDs) and sophomore Dalton Viglasky (246 yards, three TDs)
Senior linebacker Logan Kaufmann (83 tackles), senior safety Michael Toth (83 tackles), junior linebacker Jesse Matthews (73 tackles) and senior safety Ryan Wiggers (69 tackles) lead the defense. Senior lineman Kory Johnson has 60 tackles and five sacks.
“They have a class program and Dan will have his kids ready to go and they’ll be flying around,” Stiebel said. “That’s just how their program is, with the guys they have and Dan running it. They have a great staff, too. We’ll have our hands full.”
Rose said the Bulldogs can’t afford a substandard performance on offense.
“We’re going to have to move the ball well,” he said. “We’re going to have to run effectively and pass effectively. Mater Dei’s defense is pretty sound and we’re going to be outsized, so we’re going to have to really play a well-balanced game.
“You have two playoff-caliber teams playing in week nine. This is not and 8-0 versus an 0-8. This game means something to both teams. We both play a very difficult schedule.”