116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — There’s really no excuse not to do it in this day and age. Pardon the double negative.
Watching football game film is as easy as downloading an app to your computer, signing in and clicking a button. That’s it.
Most of the time, your coaches will email you a link. Just devour to your heart’s content.
When it comes to Cedar Rapids Xavier linebacker Thomas Sundell, that’s a lot of devouring.
“I look for tendencies, then also I look for the guy, what the linemen are doing with their blocking scheme,” Sundell said. “Just seeing who they are going to be blocking and where they’re going to be blocking.”
The senior said he tries to watch an hour of film/video a night. It’s a habit he began last season, at the request and encouragement of Xavier defensive coordinator Jim O’Connell.
“It started on varsity last year,” he said. “I definitely have picked it up a lot more. When I was a freshman and sophomore, I didn’t watch a whole lot of film. But O’Connell and Coach (Nick) Garland, our other defensive coach, they really want us to be watching film all week.”
Sundell leads one of the state’s best defensive units in tackles, his 57 1/2 stops more than double the next-highest Saint. A whopping 42 of those tackles have been solo, including 11 for loss.
“He could have even more if he played the whole game. He hasn’t played a whole game,” pointed out Xavier head coach Duane Schulte.
The Class 4A second-ranked Saints were 8-0 going into their regular-season finale Friday night at home against Oskaloosa. Their closest game has been 17 points, and they’ve played six games in which there has been a continuous clock because they’ve been ahead by 35 points or more.
“He just has a nose for the ball,” Schulte said. “Every once in a while, you get a natural defensive guy who can find the ball. He just has a nose for it. He’s a student of the game. He puts in his time, studies and prepares. He’s a solid, good all-around kid. Good student, I have him in class. He loves football, too.”
Yes, he does. Sundell figures he first started playing when he was in kindergarten (flag, of course).
He led Xavier in tackles last season as well: 83 of them, 65 solo. As Schulte mentioned, the kid always seems to be around the football.
And always seems to be putting a lick on an opponent’s quarterback, running back or receiver.
“I think I just like to play physical and like to hit. I think some people don’t always like to be hit every single play. I don’t mind doing that,” he said. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to all the guys on the defense. The D-line, I know they pick up a lot of double teams, which allows me to be free and run around. It’s coaches putting me in the right spot for blitzing and stuff. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to everybody else.”
Xavier saw its streak of four consecutive shutouts come to an end last week against Newton, but the Saints still rolled, 42-3, and still haven’t allowed a touchdown since a 40-7 victory over Dubuque Wahlert way back on Sept. 9.
It’s difficult to lose football games when the other team doesn’t score TDs, doesn’t score, period. Obviously.
“Coach O’Connell always preaches to be physical throughout the whole game and not play down to another team’s level. Especially when they get down, we want to keep putting it on them and just keep going,” Sundell said. “We try and play with a lot of energy all the time. No matter what the score is, keep the energy up.
“And, like I said, our coaches really harp on film. We watch a lot of film as a team, so we feel like we know what’s going on most of the time.”
Sundell was asked what it feels like to know Xavier hasn’t given up a touchdown in five straight games. It’s got to be the ultimate as a defender.
“That’s really fun to have that,” he said. “Especially with the guys that don’t start, they come in toward the end of the game and still hold it. That’s really fun, because they practice hard, do the same things as us, and it’s really fun to see them come in and hold that shutout.”
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