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Dominant Cedar Rapids Xavier faces familiar foe in first round of playoffs

Top-ranked Saints know Pella will want revenge

Cedar Rapids Xavier Saints take the field for their high school football game at Saints Field at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Xavier Saints take the field for their high school football game at Saints Field at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Even by its own standard of excellence, the 2018 Cedar Rapids Xavier football team has achieved new heights in dominance.

No Xavier squad has ever scored more points (395) or allowed fewer (28) in the regular season than this year’s bunch. Combine those plateaus with a 22-game win streak that includes a state championship last season, and it might be easy to overlook a first-round playoff opponent.

Not this one.

“We respect Pella so much,” said Xavier Coach Duane Schulte, who will lead the top-ranked Saints (9-0) into a Class 3A playoff opener against the seventh-ranked Dutch (8-1) Friday at 7 p.m. at Saints Field. “Obviously, we’ve seen them the last few years so we have a ton of respect for them. They’re certainly going to be a really, really difficult task.”

A Pella-Xavier matchup has historically been reserved for the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, which continues to be the site of the semifinal and state championship games. Last season, the Saints won the 3A title over Pella, 31-13. In both 2016 and 2014, Pella eliminated Xavier in the 3A state semifinals.

“Our thing last year was a revenge-type thing,” Xavier senior offensive lineman Derrick Voss said. “The roles have switched this year, so we’re aware of that.”

Friday’s winner will face either Clear Creek Amana (8-1) or No. 10 Decorah (7-2) in a 3A quarterfinal on Nov. 2. Xavier defeated Decorah, 45-3, at home on Aug. 31.

“One thing that stands out to me about this group is, they all have accepted their role,” Schulte said. “They have willingly accepted what we’ve asked them to do and where to play.”

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The Saints’ staunch defensive unit is led by senior lineman Kyle Krezek and senior linebacker Ethan Hurkett, who are tied for the team lead with 38 1/2 tackles. Senior end Jon Bell leads Xavier with 7 1/2 sacks, while Krezek has five for a defense that posted five shutouts and held every opponent to less than 200 yards of total offense.

“Every week our scout team gives us a great look,” Krezek said. “They’ve been doing a really good job of trying to show the person that they’re trying to emulate. Also, our coaches have been doing a great job of really trying to put in a good plan going into every week.”

The Xavier offense hopes to continue its stellar play against a Pella defense that has surrendered more than 200 yards of offense in five contests this season, including three of at least 300. Xavier senior quarterback Quinn Schulte has thrown for 1,228 yards, ran for 599 and accounted for 39 total touchdowns with just one interception.

“The relationship between all the players,” Voss said when asked about the key to Xavier’s offensive success this season. “(Senior tailback) Braden (Stovie) knows how we block. We give all the effort that we need to give and more, if not more. The communication with the line, it all starts up front. It’s what we preach.”

Stovie needs just 5 rushing yards to reach 1,000 this season, a mark that eluded him by just 3 yards as a junior.

With one more rushing touchdown, Schulte will break the school record for career touchdowns (42). He posted five receiving touchdowns as a sophomore, 20 rushing scores last season and another 17 on the ground this year, which tied the regular-season school record for a single year.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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