CEDAR FALLS — What’s the best way to beat a big-time quarterback? Keep him off the field, of course.
That’s what Cedar Rapids Xavier did Thursday night to Max Duggan, hogging the football, beating and beating up Council Bluffs Lewis Central, 37-13, in a highly-anticipated Class 3A semifinal at the UNI-Dome between the top-two ranked teams.
The Saints just keep marching on, their 24th consecutive victory moving them back to the state championship game. The opponent is Western Dubuque, which Xavier beat in Week 7 of the regular season, 35-0.
“We knew he was a great player, he’s got a lot of talent,” said Xavier’s Quinn Schulte. “So, offensively, we just tried to get our offensive line to get a surge going early. That kind of helped us keep him off the field and put points on the board.”
This team lost leading receiver/starting cornerback Kyle Moeder to injury in the first round of the playoffs and starting right tackle Josh Volk (also a major college recruit) to an apparent knee injury in the first quarter here.
But it still has Schulte and a bunch of other good players who are winners. Schulte isn’t the QB prospect the TCU-bound Duggan in, but the kid is a football player, period.
He rushed 26 times for 152 yards and three second-half touchdowns as Xavier (12-0) pulled away from a 13-7 game at the half. Running back Braden Stovie added 94 yards on 23 attempts, the Saints simply powering their way to a win behind 259 yards rushing.
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Give kudos to the guys up front for their blocking: linemen Hayden Ostwinkle, Isaac Ball, Wyatt Johnson, Derrick Voss and Kyle Krezek (who subbed for Volk), as well as tight end Matt Jordebrek. Going into the fourth quarter, Xavier had run 50 offensive plays to Lewis Central’s 24.
That’s dominating the line of scrimmage.
“Our line really got a surge at the beginning and just kept it through the whole game,” Stovie said. “Obviously, we don’t want to see anybody get hurt on either side. But Kyle Krezek, who’s also our D-tackle, stepped up and played a big role in tonight’s game. It’s next man up.”
“We just couldn’t get our defense off the field,” said Lewis Central Coach Jim Duggan. “They just wore us down.”
Max Duggan ended a great career by completing 11 of 18 passes for 147 yards, with Xavier’s defense making him earn each of those. They also prevented him from hurting them with his legs, holding him to just 31 yards there on 11 attempts.
“They had a great game plan, did what they’re known for,” he said. “We had to make the most of the opportunities we did get, and we didn’t do that.”
“We have a lot of respect for those guys,” said Xavier defensive back Bryson Bastian. “Max is an unbelievable player. I’ve got all the respect in the world for him and wish the best of luck in his college career. Their offense is top tier, so we just tried to prepare as best we could. We knew they had some good receivers and a quarterback who can throw it as far as you possibly can. So we tried our best to keep them in front of us and hope for a good outcome.”
Xavier began this game of literal keepaway on its very first drive. The Saints took over after a punt at their own 10 and chewed up a whopping nine minutes and four seconds.
A bit of trickeration capped off the 17-play odyssey. Initially lined up for a short field goal, Xavier shifted into a shotgun formation, with holder Bryson Bastian at quarterback, two guys lined up in the middle and everyone else out wide left.
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Snapper Mitch Willey was an eligible receiver because he was at the right end of the line and caught a 6-yard TD pass from Bastian. That was the only touchdown of the first half for Xavier, which wasn’t really stopped offensively until it got to the red zone.
Conrad booted field goals of 39 and 25 yards as the Saints led, 13-7. He added 36-yarder in the third quarter.
Lewis Central’s lone points came on an 8-yard TD pass from Duggan to Josh Simmons, after Duggan hit Simmons on a 53-yard bomb after scrambling to buy time. Simmons connected with Duggan on a 26-yard reverse pass for TD for the only second-half points for Lewis Central (11-1).
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