116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — It won’t happen again.
Cedar Rapids Xavier football coach Duane Schulte bumped into old friend Andy Umthun last week during the semifinal round of the Iowa high school football playoffs at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Umthun is a former activities director at Xavier. An assistant director for the Iowa High School Athletic Association, he more or less promised that if the Saints and Council Bluffs Lewis Central go to overtime Thursday night in the Class 4A state championship game, the lights at the Dome won’t go out this time.
“He didn’t really use the word ‘guarantee,’” said Schulte. “But he was quite reassuring that things would be taken care of.”
Xavier and Lewis Central had a memorable tilt last year, with a 32-24 triple-overtime win for the Titans being only part of the story. Just as the teams were about to begin that third OT, things went dark.
The lights at the Dome were set on a timer by the University of Northern Iowa to go out at exactly 10 p.m. No one apparently took under consideration that four championship games that began at 9:30 a.m. that day might not be totally concluded by then.
Since they were quartz, the lights had to cool down before being turned back on. That caused a delay of 20-plus minutes.
Again, as two teams were about to begin the third overtime of a state championship game. Surreal didn’t even begin to describe the situation.
“You’re in a groove, you’ve got your adrenaline going, and it’s just like it all goes away when you’ve got something like that happen,” said Xavier linebacker Thomas Sundell. “It kind of felt like you were starting the game over pretty much, since we were tied anyway.”
“Strangest game I’ve ever been involved in? I guess it depends on how you define strange,” Schulte said. “There are certain plays you think about that we’ve been a part of over the last 30 years. But, overall environment wise, yeah, that was probably the strangest, goofiest thing that has happened. No one would expect something like that to happen. It kind of took away our momentum. I don’t want to say it cost us a state championship, but it might have. Can’t say for sure.”
Xavier scored the tying touchdown and extra point with four minutes left in regulation, making it 10-10. The teams traded TDs and extra points the first two overtimes, with Lewis Central scoring a touchdown and adding a two-point conversion in the delayed third.
Xavier tried quarterback sneaks on third and fourth downs on its third-OT possession, both coming up short of the goal line. Incredible ballgame.
“It was such a unique situation, it had never happened before,” Schulte said. “I just remember in the moment talking with the coaches about the next overtime, what we’d try to run, what we’d try to do. How we’d try to stop the opponent. We thought (the lights coming back on) would happen quicker than it did, but it dragged on for a half-hour, something like that. It just kind of put a wet blanket on our momentum.
“And I’m not saying that as an excuse. I’m just saying it as a fact, because that’s what happened.”
So now we’ve got the rematch.
Both teams are 12-0, both have generally rolled past their opponents, other than Lewis Central’s three-point win over 3A finalist Harlan in the season opener. There are a lot of the same main characters, so to speak.
Sundell was Xavier’s top tackler last season and is again this season. Aidan McDermott was its top receiver last season and is again this season.
For Lewis Central, Braylon Kammrad is back at quarterback, Jonathan Humpal at running back.
“Of course, I think about some of the missed opportunities we had as a team last year,” Sundell said. “You hope those go your way the second time around. I mean, they had some as well, so it really could have gone either way. You can’t get too upset about it. I think it just comes down to everyone doing their job and executing, just like we have all season. Just kind of keep it rolling.”
“We’re just real appreciative and humbled by the experience,” Schulte said. “It’s such a hard thing to do. You get to be in the Dome (for the finals), for these kids to do it three years in a row, that’s a testament to their work ethic, their willingness to be coached and their families’ commitment to Xavier.”
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