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Cedar Rapids Xavier overcomes sluggish start in 32-8 victory over Vinton-Shellsburg

Prep football: Class 3A second-ranked Saints (8-0, 6-0 District 3) clinch district title

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CEDAR RAPIDS — For much of the first half Friday night at Saints Field, five-loss Vinton-Shellsburg appeared poised to deliver a lesson in preparedness to undefeated Cedar Rapids Xavier.

The Saints were held scoreless for the first 20-plus minutes of the game, but two Bryce Schulte touchdown passes just before halftime propelled Class 3A second-ranked Xavier to a 32-8 victory.

“Definitely a reminder that you have to come ready to play every Friday night,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “Sometimes people take things for granted and think you can just show up on a Friday night and win a game and that’s not how it is. You have to come ready to play literally every Friday night. This was an example of that and we finally got our act together to get the win, but give them credit.”

The victory clinched the District 3 title for Xavier (8-0, 6-0) and a home playoff game, but notice was served early that this game would not mirror the two back-to-back shutout performances that preceded it.

On the first offensive series of the game, Vinton-Shellsburg fullback Wes Edwards broke a quick-hitting handoff up the middle for a 71-yard score, and the ensuing two-point conversion provided the Vikings with a surprising 8-0 lead.

Midway through the second quarter, Vinton-Shellsburg was on the verge of adding to its lead, but the Xavier defense stopped a 4th-down try at their own 15-yard-line. The Saints’ offense marched 85 yards in nine plays, capped by a 36-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bryce Schulte to his brother, Quinn Schulte. A failed two-point try pulled Xavier within 8-6.

A Josh Gerke interception on the ensuing possession gave the Saints the ball at their 49 with 1:43 left in the first half. On 2nd-and-19 from the Vikings’ 25-yard-line, Bryce Schulte connected with receiver Brett Burns at the goal line for Xavier’s first lead, 12-8. The Saints never trailed again.

“We’ve got some confidence now, but we know we’re not done,” Gerke said. “We still have goals to achieve and we’re not satisfied at all. We’re just going to keep pushing it and getting better every week.”

Third-quarter touchdown runs of 48 yards by senior fullback Erik Rodriguez and a 34-yarder by Maliki Wilson pushed the Xavier lead to 25-8 midway through the third quarter.

“I really love our line this year,” Rodriguez said. “They’re all veterans and I have a lot of faith in those guys. When they make big holes like that, Maliki or I can make the runs.”

The Xavier defense forced three turnovers and held Vinton-Shellsburg without a single passing yard.

Vinton-Shellsburg senior D-lineman Drew Wiley – a 6-foot-4, 299-pound Kansas State recruit – helped limit Wilson to under 100 yards for just the second time this season. With 98 yards in 24 carries, Wilson leads Class 3A with 1,374 rushing yards, which is also a Xavier single-season record.

Rodriguez tallied 95 bruising yards on six carries, while Bryce Schulte finished with 161 yards passing and three scores. Quinn Schulte caught 10 passes for 81 yards.

Senior Nolan Butkowski caught four passes for 41 yards and added an interception.

Xavier closes the regular season next week at South Tama.

AT SAINTS FIELD

Class 3A No. 2 Cedar Rapids Xavier 32, Vinton-Shellsburg 8

Vinton-Shellsburg 8 0 0 0 — 8

Cedar Rapids Xavier 0 12 13 7 — 32

VS – Wes Edwards 71 run (Blake Bohnsack pass to Nate Struve)

CRX – Quinn Schulte 36 pass from Bryce Schulte (run failed)

CRX – Brett Burns 25 pass from Bryce Schulte (pass failed)

CRX – Erik Rodriguez 48 run (kick failed)

CRX – Maliki Wilson 34 run (Shane Scott kick)

CRX – Quinn Schulte 2 pass from Bryce Schulte (Shane Scott kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING – Vinton-Shellsburg: Tanner Davis 12-46, Wes Edwards 8-75, Will Edwards 6-57, Blake Bohnsack 8-4; Cedar Rapids Xavier: Maliki Wilson 24-98, Erik Rodriguez 6-95, Bryce Schulte 5-15, Quinn Schulte 1-1. PASSING – Vinton-Shellsburg: Blake Bohnsack 0-11-2-0; Cedar Rapids Xavier: Bryce Schulte 17-22-0-161. RECEIVING – Cedar Rapids Xavier: Nolan Butkowski 4-41, Quinn Schulte 10-81, Erik Rodriguez 1-(-1), Brett Burns 2-40.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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