Prep Football

Cedar Rapids Xavier looks to reload following back-to-back state football titles

Saints open season ranked No. 2 in Class 3A

Head coach Duane Schulte runs a drill at a Xavier High School football practice at Xavier in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Head coach Duane Schulte runs a drill at a Xavier High School football practice at Xavier in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The talk about a Class 3A three-peat lasted exactly one day.

It was the spring, the one day high school football coaches can meet with their kids and talk to them about a summer workout program they’d like them to go on.

“We did talk to them about that then,” admitted Cedar Rapids Xavier football coach Duane Schulte. “But then we told them this was the last time we’d be talking about it. It has been an amazing ride, a great accomplishment. But these are new dynamics, it’s a different year, so that’s the last time we’re bringing it up. And that really has been the last time.”

A 34-20 win over Western Dubuque last November allowed Xavier to win its second straight 3A title. The Saints have won 26 games in a row, the vast majority of those via blowout.

But that was then, and this is now. Only three returning starters are back for the 2019 season, though two of them are headed to play college football at Iowa: offensive lineman Josh Volk and linebacker Ethan Hurkett. Linebacker Jakob Forslund is the other.

The rest of the starters for the No. 2-ranked Saints will be brand new.

“I just see it as we are going to need more guys to step up and fill those roles,” Hurkett said. “But we seem to have that pretty much every year. Just a couple of returning starters. We just get those young guys to step up and take those spots.

“We really don’t talk about the past two years. We just kind of keep our eyes on the first game, try and take it game by game and try and get better every game.”

By the way, Hurkett (6-foot-3 and 230 pounds) likely will end up as a defensive lineman with the Hawkeyes. Specifically, an end.

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“Iowa knew about Ethan because I had talked to (retired assistant coach) Reese Moorgan about him,” Schulte said. “He had been down there for their camps and stuff, but he was kind of an under-the-radar kid because he doesn’t do all the Twitter stuff and broadcast his stuff on social media. He was just kind of low-key. He started for us as a sophomore on a championship team, so they knew he was a winner, and he’s a very solid, down-to-earth kid.”

Volk tore the ACL in his right knee in Xavier’s semifinal victory over Lewis Central, and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s full strength at the start of the season. Volk got surgery on his knee done after Xavier finished off its championship in late November.

That’s just shy of nine months ago.

“I’m getting there. I’m close,” Volk said. “I just felt something pop on that play, and I couldn’t get up. The trainer came out and looked at it. Then Dr. Schulte came out and looked at it, and he was like ‘You’ve torn your ACL. Let’s have surgery as soon as possible.’ That’s what we did. Now my knee feels good and everything.”

For the record, Volk has been practicing with Xavier.

“The first month and a half after surgery was really hard because you have a lot of people do everything for you,” Volk said. “But then you get off crutches, and I started doing everything. Getting into the weight room, starting to get after that work right away.”

“He has been moving real well,” Schulte said. “I think he’s lost some weight.”

Schulte said the battle for quarterback and the unenviable right to replace 2018 Gazette player of the year Quinn Schulte will fall to either senior Tyler Dupont or junior Jaxson Rexroth. The running back position will be manned likely by seniors Kaiden Cuevas and Nick Banowetz.

Schulte said he liked where his defense is at the moment, said it looks like a typical Xavier D: aggressive, ball-hawking, swarming. The coach said his varsity has about 40 kids on it, and there are about 100 total in the entire program: freshman, sophomore and varsity.

“We have new dynamics this year,” Schulte said. “We’re just tyrying to put the pieces to the puzzle together, and we see what we can come up with.”

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“I think our strengths will be the team chemistry and dynamic,” Hurkett said. “We’re trying to get that together. Get some leadership on this team, and see what we can do. Just keep working hard.”

And, as always, do their job and get good looks from the scout team each week in practice. Those are Xavier staple statements.

The last two years, they have been championship staple statements.

Cedar Rapids Xavier Saints

Coach: Duane Schulte (22nd year at Xavier, 166-65; 26th overall, 191-79)

Last year: 13-0, Class 3A state champion

Top returners: LB/RB Ethan Hurkett, OL Josh Volk, LB/RB Jakob Forslund

Key to making the playoffs: This team has a lot to live up to, but the weight of defending back-to-back state titles cannot be a heavy burden. Gel quickly, considering there are going to be so many new starters. Replacing QB Quinn Schulte and everything he did for Xavier the past two seasons, especially last season.

Games to watch: The first four games should tell a lot about this team. Then, of course, there is that Oct. 11 game at Western Dubuque. Xavier beat the Bobcats twice last season, including in a tight game for the 3A state championship. WD has a ton of key players returning.

Schedule

Aug. 30 — Iowa City Regina

Sept. 6 — at Decorah

Sept. 12 — at Davenport Assumption

Sept. 20 — West Delaware

Sept. 27 — Maquoketa

Oct. 4 — at Dubuque Wahlert

Oct. 11 — at No. 1 Western Dubuque

Oct. 18 — Center Point-Urbana

Oct. 25 — Marion

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