Prep Football

Cedar Rapids Xavier's smothering defense gets its toughest test in Lewis Central, QB Max Duggan

Cedar Rapids Xavier's Carson Hennings (82) pulls down Decorah's Jace Johnson (11) during the first quarter of their high school football state quarterfinal game at Saints Field in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Xavier's Carson Hennings (82) pulls down Decorah's Jace Johnson (11) during the first quarter of their high school football state quarterfinal game at Saints Field in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s unclear who on Cedar Rapids Xavier’s vaunted scout team got to play the role of Max Duggan this week in practice.

Perhaps it took a couple of guys, because the Lewis Central quarterback is just that good.

He can throw the football, he can run it. He can do everything.

“Obviously, he’s a really good kid,” Xavier defensive end Jon Bell said. “He knows his stuff. He’s able to extend the pocket, extend his time in the pocket. He’ll make throwing room for himself. He’s a good player. We all know that.”

How what has been a great Xavier defense deals with the four-star Texas Christian recruit is a sublime subplot for Thursday night’s Class 3A playoff semifinal at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. Kickoff for this delectable matchup between No. 1 Xavier and No. 2 Lewis Central is scheduled for 8:15, though it will likely be a bit later.

Western Dubuque and Sergeant Bluff-Luton begin their 3A semifinal at 5:30. The winners face off next week for the championship.

Xavier comes into this one having given up only 40 points in 11 games this season, a 3.6 average. Contrarily, Lewis Central is averaging 48.7 points per game, thanks primarily to Duggan.

The dude has accounted for a 3A-high 3,160 total yards and 48 touchdowns. A true dual threat, he has completed 113 of 169 passes (67 percent) for 1,969 yards and picked up another 1,191 yards as a runner.

That included a 210-yard, four-TD night last week in a quarterfinal victory over Harlan.

“A really good kid, a really good runner,” said Xavier defensive end Carson Hennings. “We know that if he gets outside, he’s good, a good outside runner. We’ve just got to make sure we can do our jobs, get to him in time, so he doesn’t have time to make a decision ... It comes down to doing our thing right.”

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Their thing has been tremendous, as Xavier’s defense has allowed only four touchdowns all season. No runner has gotten more than 55 yards rushing in any game and only Pella has hit the 200-yard mark offensively.

The Dutch had 253 in a first-round playoff game but only scored six points.

“It’s been really great the way we’ve been able to come together,” Bell said. “Not only as a defense, but also as a family. We’ve been able to bond. We started the season like ‘All right, we’ve got new guys coming in.’ But we’ve been able to figure out how to come together as a defense.”

“Not all of us were there last year, so we’ve had some new guys coming on,” Hennings said. “It’s been how well we’ve come together and become a brotherhood. We all trust each other and know how to play together.”

Xavier’s offense is well capable of going on long, ground-and-pound drives, which would help its defense by keeping Duggan and company off the field. The Saints have a pretty good dual-threat quarterback of their own in Quinn Schulte.

Xavier is coached by his father, Duane. Lewis Central’s head coach is Jim Duggan, Max’s father.

Duane Schulte said some of his guys are familiar with Duggan and some of his teammates via playing against them as youths in AAU basketball.

“So they’re somewhat familiar with the type of athlete he is,” Schulte said.

Xavier has opposed some outstanding RPO-type quarterbacks over the years in playoff games at the Dome. West Des Moines Dowling’s Ryan Boyle and Ankeny’s Joel Lanning immediately pop to mind.

But Duggan might be even better.

“I feel like quarterbacks always have their own way of playing, so you just have to be able to defend them,” Bell said. “With him, it’s whatever he sees. We need to account for both the run and the pass.”

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“We haven’t seen him play in a live football game, yet, so that has yet to be determined,” Coach Schulte said, when asked how Duggan compares to Boyle and Lanning. “He’s just one of those special kids who can do a lot of things.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

 

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