MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Duane Schulte has a term for athleticism, elusiveness.
And that’s the term he bestowed on his third son.
“Quinn has a lot of the same qualities that Reggie and Bryce had,” Coach Schulte said. “But he’s got a lot more swivel-hips than those two.”
In other words, he’s going to be a challenge to chase down in the open field.
For the sixth time in seven seasons, a Schulte will be quarterbacking the Cedar Rapids Xavier football team.
“I’m just going to try to go in and get the job done,” said Quinn, a junior who moves behind center after spending last season as a receiver. “It was good to have Bryce there last year and get the playbook down.”
Reggie Schulte was the Xavier QB in 2011 and 2012, then it was Bryce for three seasons from 2014 through 2016.
“They all love to compete, and they all hate to lose,” Duane said. “Quinn is probably the most athletic and elusive, and he’ll bring some new things to the offense.”
Xavier is coming off another tremendous season — 11-1 and a district title — that ended in heartbreaking style in the UNI-Dome, a last-second 34-30 loss to eventual-champion Pella in the Class 3A semifinals.
“It still eats at me every day,” said Jacob Hines, who will play end on both offense and defense. “You can’t do anything now but move on, and hopefully do something about it this year.”
Said Jack Lemke: “It was a tough ending, for sure. But a lot of teams have tough endings. We’ve just got to use it as motivation.”
Graduation hit the Saints hard (all seven all-staters from 2016 are gone), leaving a handful of returning starters. What’s left is a lot of hungry guys that went up against last year’s studs every day in practice.
Last year’s scout team is this year’s nucleus.
“It kind of reminds me of the 2007 group (the year after Xavier won a 4A state championship),” Coach Schulte said.
“We don’t have a lot of starters back, but we do have a lot of guys that got a lot of reps every day.”
Quinn Schulte caught 52 passes for 546 yards and five touchdowns last year. Now he’ll be piloting the offense.
“If I do my job, I know I have teammates — my receivers, backs and linemen — that will make a quarterback look good,” he said.
Tailback Jax Junge “looks fast and is in great shape,” Coach Schulte said.
Lemke can — and probably will — play a variety of offensive positions. But his most valuable place is on the defense, where he was second on the team last year with 44.5 tackles.
“My role is to work hard on every play,” he said. “I know if we work as hard as we can all the time, we’ll be headed in the right direction.”
If you’ve watched Xavier football since the school opened nearly two decades ago, here’s what you know:
The Saints will be disciplined. They’ll be physical. They will give yards and points begrudgingly and will have dominant line play.
All without many bells and whistles.
“I guess we just don’t want to mess with stuff that has been working,” Coach Schulte said. “This sounds weird, but the more simple we make things, I think the more complicated we make them for our opponents.”
Xavier opens its season at perennial Class 1A powerhouse Iowa City Regina, then hosts Linn-Mar in Week 2.
Then it’s a journey through Class 3A District 3, and despite the roster transition, the Saints remain the title favorites.
If all goes as planned, the postseason beckons.
“We’re just going to try to win games,” Quinn Schulte said. “Win every possession, and see where that takes us.”
Coach: Duane Schulte (20th season at Xavier, 140-65)
Last year: 11-1 (District champion, Class 3A state semifinalist)
Top returning letterwinners: QB Quinn Schulte, LB Jack Lemke, DE Jacob Hines
Key losses: QB Bryce Schulte, RB Maliki Wilson, DB Josh Gerke, OL Sam Meyers, OL Max Johnson, PK Shane Scott, WR Nolan Butkowski
Key to making the playoffs: It’s cliche, but stay healthy and hungry. On paper, Xavier is the class of 3A District 3 again. It would be a surprise if the Saints lost one district game, let alone more than one.
Games to watch: The highlights come early, before the district season. Xavier goes to Iowa City Regina in Week 1, then hosts Linn-Mar the following Friday.
Aug. 25 — at Iowa City Regina
Sept. 1 — Linn-Mar
Sept. 8 — Benton Community
Sept. 15 — at Charles City
Sept. 22 — Decorah
Sept. 29 — at Independence
Oct. 6 — Waverly-Shell Rock
Oct. 13 — at Vinton-Shellsburg
Oct. 20 — South Tama
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