CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Xavier was prepared for a fight.
The Saints were aware of Decorah’s hard-nosed and physical reputation and the game started in a bare-knuckle style brawl they expected. After absorbing a couple shots early, Xavier turned a battle into a beat down.
Class 3A top-ranked Xavier exploded for 24 points in the second quarter and dropped Decorah, 45-3, Friday night in prep football action at Saints Field. The Saints won their 29th straight regular-season game and handed the Vikings their worst loss since a 42-7 defeat to Harlan in the 2004 state final.
“We were telling our kids it was going to be a battle and it was,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “We kind of survived that first punch by them and were able to execute.”
The game turned in Decorah’s favor, converting a Braden Stovie fumble into a 35-yard field goal by Cameron DeLong and a 3-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first.
Instead of Decorah taking control, Xavier answered the wake-up call.
The Saints (2-0) followed with a ground-and-pound possession, running the ball all 14 plays of an 80-yard drive and chewing 6:21 off the clock. Quinn Schulte capped the series with a 6-yard TD run for a 7-3 lead that ignited a four-score outburst before halftime.
“We just told them to execute your job,” Schulte said. “It’s the same message they have had for years around here.”
Xavier only needed one play and six seconds on its next drive to take a 14-3 advantage. Nate Skala’s 38-yard punt return gave the Saints possession at Decorah’s 18. Schulte followed with an 18-yard scoring strike to Matt Jordebrek with 8:07 left.
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Schulte connected with Jordebrek for a 5-yard TD, giving the Saints three scores in just 4:09 during the second quarter. The play was set up by a 50-yard completion from Schulte to Jordebrek, who accounted for 73 of Schulte’s 144 passing yards.
During the first two TD drives, Xavier converted on three third-down plays and twice on fourth down. Stovie, who finished with 188 rushing yards on 17 carries, broke a 69-yard run that led to Ben Conrad’s 27-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half, making it 24-3 at the break.
“The line really started getting a surge and we really started working together as a unit,” Stovie said. “It kind of opened stuff up.”
Special teams proved to be a big part. Skala broke a 65-yard punt return on the final play of the third quarter in addition to the key return that helped Xavier pull away.
“My job is to just catch the ball and they have to block,” said Skala, who also caught four passes for 32 yards including an 11-yard TD. “All I have to do is get off their hips and backs and they will do the job for me.”
Xavier’s defense stifled the Decorah rush attack after some big gains by Kailer McCabe, who ran for 16 yards on the Vikings’ first offensive play, and Drake Shelton, who had a 27-yard carry. The Saints held Decorah to just 137 yards on the ground after the Vikings had more than 320 yards in a season-opening win over Waukon. Xavier didn’t allow a single completion.
“We started out a little slow, but then we started doing our job, reading our keys,” Xavier junior linebacker Ethan Hurkett said. “It all came together.”
Shelton rushed for 54 yards and McCabe added 50 on the ground for Decorah (1-1).
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