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CEDAR RAPIDS — They completed a Hail Mary for touchdown at the end of the first half. If anyone is going to do that, you’d figure it’d be a Catholic school, right?
But the Cedar Rapids Xavier Saints didn’t really need to have that happen to beat Decorah, 21-13, Friday night in a battle of top-10 ranked Class 3A football teams at Saints Field. Not when you’ve got a defense like they’ve got.
It’s just this side of great. OK, so far this season, it has been great.
“I was concerned about being able to move the ball against them,” said Decorah Coach Bill Post. “And that proved to be a tough task.”
Quick, swarming, aggressive and fundamentally sound, Xavier’s defensive unit limited Decorah to 41 yards rushing and a plethora of three-and-outs. The Saints definitely won the field-position battle, let’s just say that.
Take away a long touchdown pass toward the end of the first half and another one on the final play of the game, and Xavier’s D was D-lightful.
“To hold Decorah to 30 yards rushing or whatever it was, you’ve got to be happy for our guys,” said Xavier Coach Duane Schulte.
“Our mentality is always stop the run,” said Xavier linebacker Jack Lemke. “Read your keys. We just try and do that every play.” Running back Jax Junge powered his way to 125 yards rushing, and quarterback Quinn Schulte ran for a pair of touchdowns for top-ranked Xavier (5-0, 3-0 in District 3), but it was Lemke that provided quite possibly the game’s swing play. Well, he and Jack Scott.
A pass-interference penalty on Decorah on the final play of the first half gave the Saints the ball on the Vikings 33 and one untimed down. After a Xavier timeout, Ben Conrad lined up to try a 50-yard field goal, Decorah called timeout, then Xavier called another timeout.
Out came Lemke to replace Schulte at QB. He faded back and threw a high-arching pass that Scott went up between four defenders and came down with for a touchdown and a 14-6 halftime lead.
Ninth-ranked Decorah had scored on a 41-yard pass play from Brannan Hogan to Dawson Holkesvik with 1:03 left in the half to make it a one-point game, the extra-point attempt plunking off the left upright. All in all, an incredible swing of momentum.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Lemke said. “That’s the first time I’ve gone in at quarterback this year. I guess it worked out. They just told me to throw it downfield, that’s what I did, and Jack Scott made a great catch.”
“They kind of ended up getting one of those throw-it-up-for-grabs plays,” Coach Schulte said. “For us to come back and have the same kind of thing happen was huge.”
Decorah (4-1, 2-1) fumbled away the football on the first play of the second half, though Xavier couldn’t convert that turnover into points, missing a field goal. Finally early in the fourth quarter, Xavier was able to take advantage of great field position, taking over at the Vikings 44 after a punt and power rushing the football down the field, Schulte’s 5-yard option keeper for TD making it a 21-6 game.
Holskevik caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Hogan on the final play for the final margin.
“They are a good, powerful team,” said Post. “That’s what we saw on film, what we talked about. They’ve got a big high-school football team. Big guys. They’ve got a big line, but their backs and receivers and so on, they’re all big, too. You kind of wonder are they really high-school kids? They’re good, but our kids fought toe to toe with them.”
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