116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — The first time Waukon played for a state football title a young Mitchell Snitker served as a ball boy.
At that time, there had to be visions of going from roaming sidelines to crossing goal lines.
Snitker helped the Indians return to the UNI-Dome for the first time since 2013 and delivered them to the championship game once again. The senior running back scored four touchdowns and added a field goal in fifth-ranked Waukon's 36-19 victory over defending state champion No. 1 Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley in a Class 2A semifinal Saturday.
'It's amazing,' Snitker said. 'I got to experience that in eighth grade. I was down on the sideline. It was an insane time. It's crazy to think that now we're sitting where they were.'
The Indians (11-1) fed the Nighthawks a healthy dose of Snitker, helping them build an early lead and then upped the dosage in the second half to pull away.
Snitker rushed 31 times for 179 yards, scoring three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes. He also finished with 16 receiving yards and handled the kicking duties, adding three extra-points and a 34-yard field goal. He even had an interception, thwarting an early scoring threat deep in Waukon territory.
He'll rest easy this weekend.
'I like knowing I have a big say in what happens in the game,' Snitker said. 'You get tired out there but you just have to keep going.
'We're right down to the end of the season. Eventually this is going to be over, so you just have to keep going through it.'
He played a big part of regaining momentum after BHRV started the third on fire, completing a 71-yard pass play from J.T. Van't Hul to Cade Moser on the first play of the second half and forcing two fumbles off sacks to set up a 12-yard strike from Van't Hul to Carter Olson.
The Nighthawks (10-2) cut Waukon's 15-0 halftime lead to a two-point deficit in the first 4:05 of the second half.
Waukon produced two of its best drives of the game to regain control. The Indians drove 70 yards on 12 plays, burning almost 5:30 off the clock and extending the lead to 22-13 on Snitker's 8-yard run.
Waukon followed with a nine-play, 63-yard drive, capping it with the first of Snitker's two fourth-quarter 5-yard TD runs.
'They were able to control the clock and grind it,' Waukon Coach Chad Beermann said. 'As a defensive coach, I know we can put points on the board but I like to protect the defense. We did a great job of running clock and getting points.'
Waukon's experience was on display. The defense limited BHRV, which had come in averaging more than 43 points a game. Despite the sloppy play that allowed the Nighthawks back into the game, the offense regrouped and didn't fold.
'We don't have a lot of depth, but they sucked it up,' Beermann said. 'They made the plays they needed to make.
'They've played 20 games. They are veterans now. They know what they can do.'
Waukon opened the game with a flurry, scoring two touchdowns and forcing a pair of interceptions before the game was eight minutes old.
'It was huge,' Schwartz said. 'Playing the defending state champs, they were rolling. They are a great team.
'Coming out and smacking them right away helped us in the first half. Our defensive plan keeping them at zero played a big role.'
Abe Schwartz provided the early spark. The senior QB orchestrated a 75-yard, 11-play scoring drive on the opening possession.
Facing 3rd-and-12 from the Nighthawks 21, Schwartz scrambled in a Fran Tarkenton manner, rolling left, turning away from defenders, dropping back further to elude another diving tackler and passing the right hash before throwing back to a wide-open Isaiah Welch at the goal line for a 21-yard score.
Welch wasn't supposed to even run a route, but ad-libbed and Schwartz spotted him, throwing late across the field. A low-percentage practice highly discouraged, but it worked.
'Isaiah wasn't actually supposed to run a route,' Schwartz said. 'He ended up leaking out and he was open.
'After I scrambled for a while, I was out of breath. I just threw it up and he was there.'
Schwartz followed with a pick of Van't Hul three plays later, giving Waukon the ball at the Nighthawks 23.
Snitker stepped in, dashing 23 yards around left end for a TD on the first play of the possession, making it 12-0 with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
'You always want to answer right after a score,' Schwartz said. 'We just got them off the field right away.
'The first play our offensive line did the job and Mitch got in the end zone.'
Waukon will make its second state finals appearance, placing second in 2013. Beermann said this team doesn't quite have the superstars that previous squad had, but this one is more solid with talented players across the board.
The Indians will face the winner of district foe Union Community and Williamsburg.
'We definitely want to bring it back to Waukon, this time,' Schwartz said.
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