CEDAR RAPIDS — The offense sputtered for much of the night, but the defense sported fangs whenever it needed them.
The No. 1-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier football team opened the Class 3A postseason with its first four-quarter tussle of the season. While the points were limited and the mistakes plentiful, one theme remains constant in late October playoff football.
Just win and get to the next one.
“Pella is a very tough football team,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said after the Saints edged the seventh-ranked Dutch, 14-6, in a rugged 3A playoff opener Friday night at Saints Field. “They have such a huge tradition and their coaches are so good, you knew this was going to be a battle. We’re just happy to survive and move on. It was an unbelievably hard-fought, tough, first-round high school football game.”
It was the fourth playoff meeting in five years between Xavier and Pella. The Saints won the 3A title game last season, 31-13, over a Dutch squad that had won the previous three state championships and had eliminated Xavier during the 3A semifinals twice in the process.
This time, the two teams tangled much sooner.
“I give a lot of credit to Pella,” Xavier senior cornerback Bryson Bastian said. “They’re a great team. We’ve been up against those guys the past few years and they give us their best shot every time.”
Xavier (10-0) scored on its second offensive possession of the game when senior quarterback Quinn Schulte threw deep down the field to senior receiver Kyle Moeder, who was all alone down the left sideline. Moeder eluded one Pella tackler before crossing the goal line with a 51-yard score that gave the Saints a 7-0 lead with 4:40 left in the first quarter.
“That was set up by our other two receivers, drawing the other defenders away,” Moeder said. “If they would not have done that, that would not have been the result.”
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The Saints had opportunities to add to their lead, but were undone by three turnovers, 50 yards in penalties and a rare missed field goal.
With 8:18 left in the game and the score still 7-0, Bastian lined up in the backfield. A scout team quarterback last season, Bastian took a pitch from Quinn Schulte, sprinted to the right sideline, turned and fired a left-handed strike to Moeder for a 72-yard score and a 14-0 advantage.
“We practice both sides in practice,” Bastian said of the play call that required him to run right and throw left. “Whatever coach calls, I just like to throw it out there and hopefully a guy can make a play. He was wide open, so I just kind of lobbed it up there. It was awesome, though. Me and him are great buddies.”
Pella — a team that averaged 41 points a game this season — scored its only TD of the game with 4:17 to go. After a Xavier turnover, the Dutch drove to the Saints’ eight-yard-line with a chance to tie the game, but gained zero yards in four chances against a Xavier defense that is accustomed to preserving big leads.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure,” said Xavier junior linebacker Jakob Forslund, who intercepted a pass in the first half. “We know our capabilities. Our coaches hold us to high standards. We just really do it for our coaches and our team.”
Quinn Schulte also had an interception on defense for Xavier, while Moeder finished with four receptions for 144 yards before leaving the game with a right-leg injury.
Aaron Downs caught 11 passes for 139 yards and a TD for Pella (8-2), which was the first team this season to top 200 yards of offense against the Xavier defense.
Xavier — winners of a school-record 23 games in a row — will host No. 10 Decorah (8-2) in a 3A quarterfinal on Nov. 2. Back on Aug. 31, the Saints defeated the Vikings by six touchdowns.
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“At this point, you just try to win and move on,” Duane Schulte said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
CLASS 3A FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF
At Saints Field
No. 1 Cedar Rapids Xavier 14, No. 7 Pella 6
Pella 0 0 0 6—6
C.R. Xavier 7 0 0 7—14
CRX — Kyle Moeder 51 pass from Quinn Schulte (Ben Conrad kick)
CRX — Kyle Moeder 72 pass from Bryson Bastian (Ben Conrad kick)
PEL — Aaron Downs 8 pass from Gabe Thomas (pass failed)
RUSHING — C.R. Xavier: Quinn Schulte 14-56, Braden Stovie 19-53, Jon Bell 4-30, Nate Skala 1-2; Pella: Sam Warner 1-2, Aaron Downs 2-4, Gabe Thomas 9-13, Ryan Gustafson 7-3.
PASSING — C.R. Xavier: Quinn Schulte 8-14-1-119, Bryson Bastian 1-1-0-72; Pella: Ryan Gustafson 23-49-2-224, Gabe Thomas 1-1-0-8.
RECEIVING — C.R. Xavier: Kyle Moeder 4-144, Matt Jordebrek 2-24, Braden Stovie 3-23; Pella: Logan Shetterly 4-37, Aaron Downs 11-139, Josh Warner 4-21, Treyton Sturgeon 2-17, Sam Warner 1-2, Gabe Thomas 2-18.
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