ATHENS - Iola's state title hopes went up in smoke in Bruce Field on Friday night when No. 6 ranked Big Sandy handed the Bulldogs a 46-8 defeat in a Class A quarterfinal game.
Big Sandy, 13-1, will play the Bremond Tigers at a site and date to be determined.
The loss sent the Bulldogs to the sideline with a 12-2 overall record, leaps and bounds better than foreseen in preseason predictions.
"Big Sandy was as good as we thought they were," Iola coach Randy McDougald said. "Big Sandy is ranked second in the Harris Poll and they were very physical and very quick. They were as physical as we were and they had a couple of linemen we just could not get blocked. They had a lot more quickness and physicality than we expected."
"This has been a dream season. We were picked 6-4 in preseason and a 7-3 record might have made everyone very happy. But we expect to be back strong next year because we lose only seven seniors. Our first goal will be to go through all six rounds of the playoffs next year, we really think we're going to be poised for a good run next year."
Among those coming back are 290-pound fullback Rex McDougald, the coach's nephew, and leading ground gainer Casey Giles.
Coach McDougald said that he knew when the season started that they were going to be physical and big, but with no speed. He hopes some incoming young players next year will help in the speed department.
"I would just like to say that we had seven seniors and they matured a lot, coach McDougald commented. "This group could not have gone this far without their leadership."
The Wildcats dominated Iola's defense in the first half. They scored five touchdowns in 16 plays, racking up 190 total yards.
It was the quickness and agility of two good young running backs, Brandon McClevland and quarterback Deroderick Strickland.
Late in the game, the Bulldogs finally sustained a march. They moved from their own 28 in seven plays with McDougald getting the final yard with 2:38 left in the game.