Cedar Rapids Xavier beats Pella in state championship to complete perfect season

Top-ranked Saints knock off three-time defending champs, 31-13

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CEDAR FALLS – The final second ticked off the clock and Cedar Rapids Xavier Coach Duane Schulte turned to his assistant coaches for one last instruction.

He turned to coaches like defensive coordinator Jim O’Connell, assistant Brad Stovie and sophomore coach Ryan Chambers, telling them to delay their own celebration and take in the reaction of their sons that were in uniform.

Schulte took his own advice and watched as his son, Quinn, joined in a small dogpile with 60-plus of his adopted Saints family, following their championship performance.

“I just tried to tell our coaches to enjoy the moment with your sons,” Schulte said. “You put so much time in away from families. Don’t jump around yourself. Watch your boy and cherish the memories.”

Top-ranked Xavier capped an undefeated season, dropping No. 4 Pella, 31-13, for the Class 3A state football championship Thursday night at the UNI-Dome. The Saints avenged last year’s final-play semifinal loss to the Dutch, capturing their first state title since the 2006 4A title.

“It’s something you dream about ever since those days on the playground playing two-hand touch,” Xavier senior defensive lineman Jacob Hines said. “It’s something you always envision when you get to high school. To have it happen is an unbelievable feeling.”

The first half was a tale of two drives. Both led to Xavier scores and impacted the game’s aura.

The Saints dictated the tempo on the game’s opening possession. They drove 78 yards on 13 plays with a heavy rush flavor. Quarterback Quinn Schulte carried eight times for 31 yards, connecting on both pass attempts for 21 yards and helping burn 6:12 off the clock.

Joey Drahozal added the exclamation point on the statement drive. Drahozal took the handoff up the middle and rumbled 16 yards for the score and 7-0 lead with 5:44 left in the first quarter.

Drahozal entered the game with four touchdowns all season, but reached the end zone twice in the first half alone. He hauled in a screen pass and rumbled 43 yards for a TD, lowering a shoulder into a defender as he crossed the goal line, giving Xavier a 17-0 lead with 6:50 to go in the second quarter.

“I heard we were going to open up the playbook with that screen and more 42s and 48s,” Drahozal said of the inside run plays. “The line did an amazing job blocking.

“I have to give credit to the linemen. They got me there.”

The early lead was crucial and really dictated how the game was played.

“It was definitely huge,” Xavier receiver Gabe Lux said. “We knew they were going to come out firing and ready to go. We had to bring a little more intensity. We knew they were going to be physical and give us some great challenges and battles.

“Coaches made some great play calls and credit to everybody. … We did our jobs and connected.”

Xavier ended the half in similar fashion to its start. The Saints went 80 yards on 12 plays, melting 4:18 off the clock to answer Pella’s lone score – a 36-yard pass from Ryan Gustafson to Avery Van Zee – in the first half.

The Saints methodically moved down the field, tallying four first downs and using all three timeouts, which set up one last chance to score before the break.

On 3rd-and-2 from the Pella 21, McClain Burger went in motion, Schulte threw a lateral to wideout Gabe Lux, who stepped back and hit Burger down field for the for a score and 24-7 halftime edge.

“Quinn put a great ball right on the money to me and Jacob Hines blocked the guy in front of me,” Lux said. “I just had to throw it up. I didn’t have to do too much. McClain made a great play.”

Read more: Xavier uses some trick-eration to beat Pella in 3A championship

Xavier outgained the Dutch 327-241, including a 109-9 advantage after the first quarter. Schulte, who added a 1-yard TD run in the third, lead the Saints with 88 yards on the ground and 86 passing. Braden Stovie added 82 rushing yards. Drahozal finished with 79 total offensive yards.

“The offensive line was getting a good surge early,” Quinn Schulte said. “We tried to set that up for a couple pass plays.”

Xavier’s defense kept the Pella offense in check, holding it to 34 rushing yards. Pella (11-2) tallied 151 yards on its two scoring drives, but struggled to move the ball the rest of the time. It came down to doing their jobs and reading their keys.

“Our coaches instill that in us every day,” Hines said. “Coach O’Connell is one of the best coaches in the state.”

Xavier won the second state football crown in school history. Both under the only coach to lead the merged Cedar Rapids Regis and Cedar Rapids LaSalle programs. Schulte said both were sweet and a product of hard work through the years.

“Deep down we’ve known and seen how hard these kids have worked over the past year in the weight room and in other sports,” Duane Schulte said. “People don’t know how much work goes on behind the scenes. We’ve seen how hard these kids have worked. It’s a great reward for them.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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