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MARION — For more than three quarters, Linn-Mar had Maliki Wilson bottled up.
Then it was bing, bang, boom.
Wilson exploded for three long touchdowns late, and Class 3A second-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier rallied for a 45-17 non-district football triumph Friday night at Linn-Mar Stadium.
“We challenged the guys at halftime to fricking step it up,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “They gutted it out.”
Xavier overcame a 17-14 deficit, scoring 31 points in the final nine minutes to improve to 2-0.
Wilson, who netted 291 yards in the Saints’ opening win over Iowa City Regina, was held to 31 through the first three quarters Friday.
Then ... kablooey.
“That’s what happens when the line opens it up,” he said. “It starts with the line. They opened it up.”
Shane Scott’s 23-yard field goal with 8:55 remaining got the Saints even at 17-all. Linn-Mar got a first down, then punted it away and Xavier took over at its own 25.
Two plays later, Wilson got loose off right tackle and went untouched, 71 yards for the go-ahead score. The PAT failed, leaving Xavier’s lead at 23-17.
Linn-Mar punted again on its next possession, and it rolled to the Xavier 2.
After Bryce Schulte scrambled for a yard, Wilson got the handoff, bounced off a tackle, got to the corner and was gone for the 97-yard scoring sprint. That was the dagger.
“(Assistant coach Craig) Jelinek fold me to do that, bounce and get outside,” Wilson said. “Once I did that, it was just me.”
Wilson added a 66-yard TD run a bit later and finished the night with 266 yards on 17 carries — 235 on his last four.
And when Brian Lang tacked on a 21-yard score with a minute left, the final score had the appearance of a rout, which it really wasn’t.
Xavier looked poised for a runaway early, with the help of a turnover and a long punt return for a 14-0 lead.
But the Lions controlled the second quarter and got back in the game.
A 22-yard field goal by Austin Cochrane — his third of the season — got Linn-Mar on the board, and the Lions followed with a 13-play, 75-yard march for their first touchdown of the year.
Linn-Mar converted three third downs, and eventually reached paydirt on Brennan McGaffe’s 3-yard run to get within 14-10. That’s how it stood at halftime.
Neme Sieway’s 69-yard TD run with 4:49 left in the third gave the Lions a 17-14 lead before the late avalanche.
Xavier opens Class 3A District 4 action next week at Benton Community. Linn-Mar is at Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
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