Iowa City Regina eyes third-straight football title


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The Iowa City Regina Regals are set to defend their back-to-back titles and a 41-game winning streak against the St. Albert of Council Bluffs Falcons in the 1A football state championship today.

The Regals (14-0) will look to quarterback Mark Ward, a first-year starter, to continue exhibiting his consistent leadership.

“He’s a guy who probably could have been our starter last year as a junior,” offensive coordinator (and ex-Hawkeye) Ed Hinkel said about the senior. “He didn’t get that experience last year that he could have gotten at a different school; but he has done a great job running the offense and really understands what we’re trying to do.”

The 6-3 senior was adamant about how much the team’s diversified strategy has helped the team succeed.

“We run a zone-read offense, so I can hand it off or keep it, depending on what the opposition shows,” Ward said. “What has made this team so successful is the diversity that we show and the different looks that we can bring.”

The Regals are coached by Marv Cook, a former Hawkeye and NFL tight end. Cook said he believes his team’s chemistry is what may propel them to the Regals third-straight title.

“Of our 14 seniors, 13 of them have been at Regina since first grade. And all 11 of our juniors have been here since the elementary level,” Cook said. “So these guys have played together and competed since they were 6 or 7 years old. That’s enabled us to have a lot of success and helped us develop a lot of team chemistry.”

The Regals are coming off of a thrilling state semifinal victory against Dike-New Hartford. With the game tied at 21 late in the third quarter, the Regals faced a daunting fourth and 19 in New Hartford’s territory.

“Marv and I were debating whether or not we should punt or go for it, because we were in that no-man’s land around the 40-yard line,” Hinkel said. “As we were debating it, Mark Ward came in and asked us what we thought of a play.”

As it turned out, the play, which Regina had practiced all season, ended up being the perfect call for the situation.

“As soon as Mark said it, I looked at Marv, and he thought that we should go for it,” Hinkel said. “Mark called the play; I can’t take credit for that one.”

Ward delivered a perfect pass to receiver Alex Balke, who converted the first down. The Regals later finished the drive with a touchdown. Regina never relinquished the lead and went on to win, 42-21.

The St. Albert Falcons, Regina’s opponent this afternoon, has appeared in the state championship game in seven of the last 10 years. The Regals’ coaches and players said they’re not worried about the 41-game winning streak that is on the line today. But Cook, who praised the Falcons for their storied tradition, knows of the challenge the Regals will face as they attempt to retain their title.

“St. Albert is the bell cow of 1A football,” Cook said. “We want to be at their level; and we’ve got a chance to go prove it against a great team.”

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