116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Two big drives late and one big victory.
Cedar Rapids Xavier produced two drives that lasted a total of 20 plays for 160 yards for two fourth-quarter scores and a 28-14 win over Western Dubuque in the season opener Friday night at Saints Field.
“We challenged them to do their job and execute,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “I’m very proud of the way our offensive line, our tight ends and fullback Christian Stanek helped pave the way for some of those holes.”
Alex Neal scored on a 1-yard QB sneak with 8:57 to go for a 21-14 lead.
After the Saints defense forced a three-and-out, they sealed game with an 11-play drive that spanned 70 yards and melted 5:33 off the clock. Michael Cunningham scored on a 4-yard TD run to make it a 14-point lead with 1:45 to go.
“We didn’t say the timing of it but we did emphasize we wanted to get a drive going and play good, solid football,” Schulte said.
“At this point, it says a lot because we didn’t know what these guys would be like in terms of a game. We had a good scrimmage with (Cedar Rapids) Prairie last week but it shows these guys are coachable and resilient. ... They have more to do. Hopefully, they’re not satisfied.”
The Saints offense line looked to take control in the final quarter. Xavier averaged about 8 yards a play in the last two scoring drives.
“The whole unit was getting a surge and getting off the ball,” Tommy Reinwart said. “We were definitely a physical team. We were ready to play them. Props to them. That’s a great team. They have a really good defense, but I think our line was able to beat them in the end and stay physical.”
Western Dubuque scored the first points of the game. The Bobcats had a couple near misses on their first two long passes — a drop and an overthrow.
Third time was a charm after recovering a Xavier fumble on their own 29. After two attempts and two penalties forced third-and-18, Jack Clemens hit Andrew Oltmanns for a 79-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead with 8:15 to go in the first.
Xavier’s offense struggled early with four first-half fumbles, including two lost. They finally broke through in the second quarter.
Neal led the Saints on an eight-play, 78-yard drive. He completed three passes for 58 yards and rushed for 17, capping it with a 2-yard QB sneak to tie the game, 7-7, with 10:30 before break.
The Saints dodged a big threat when a 13-play Bobcats drive stalled at the Xavier 31 thanks to a false-start penalty and a bad snap for 13-yard loss.
Xavier capitalized, turning into a 14-7 lead with 34 seconds left before halftime. Neal hit Aidan McDermott on a 45-yard scoring strike. McDermott reeled in the pass in the center of the field, making two cuts to make tacklers miss and split two defenders to the end zone.
“Alex just hit me at the right time and I was able to get in the end zone,” McDermott said. “We practiced against our scout team all week. They played us hard so it was like a game in practice all week. It helped when we got into the real game.”
In all, the Saints went 66 yards on nine plays, converting a key fourth-and-1 near midfield.
Neal passed for 213 yards and added 26 on the ground. McDermott provided the big play for the Saints, hauling in seven passes for 124 yards and rushing for 45 more.
Cunningham finished with 112 rushing.
“Our coaches drew up good plays and Alex was able to get me the ball,” McDermott said. “We prepared all week for Western Dubuque, so we knew what we were doing and could make the big plays.”
Oltmanns led Western Dubuque with 127 receiving yards. Jack Clemens threw for 144 and two scores.