CEDAR RAPIDS — Last year was last year.
Celebrate in the moment, but now it is on to the next one.
While the Cedar Rapids Xavier football team is the defending state champion in Class 3A, any talk from coaches or players is centered squarely on the season at hand.
“We’re on to 2018,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “We haven’t really talked about last year, to be honest with you. We celebrated it last year when it happened, but we haven’t really talked about it. These guys have to approach 2018 as a new step.”
The “new step” will be the 20th season in the history of the Xavier program, all with Schulte at the helm. Before Xavier, Schulte spent four seasons at Cedar Rapids LaSalle. He has posted 178 wins in 23 seasons with two state championships (2006, ’17).
The coming season will carry special significance for Schulte and his family in that it will be the final season coaching his youngest son, senior Quinn Schulte. This is the eighth and final football season in a row with a Schulte son playing varsity for the Saints (Reggie, 2011-12; Bryce, 2013-16; Quinn, 2016-18).
“I’m looking forward to it and going to try to enjoy it and soak everything up,” Duane Schulte said. “He’s been around it his whole life, obviously, and as a dad I’m just going to try and soak it up and have fun.”
Quinn Schulte was an impact player on both sides of the ball last year for Xavier. As a quarterback, he was remarkably efficient with 1,202 passing yards, a completion percentage of 67.5 percent, 14 touchdowns and just one interception. He also ran for 968 yards and 20 scores. On defense, the 6-foot-1 free safety led the Saints with five interceptions.
Still, none of those accomplishments or numbers carry over to 2018. On to the next one.
“We’re just thinking about it as a new year,” said Quinn Schulte, who currently holds a scholarship offer from FCS South Dakota State but is drawing interest from FBS programs in-state and across the country. “Because that is what it comes down to every year. We’ve got new guys, new guys coming back that we’re going to have to try to gel together and just see what we can do. It’s a new team.”
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The Xavier offense is bolstered by the return of senior tailback Braden Stovie, who cut and slashed his way to a team-high 997 rushing yards last season. Stovie also posted 18 receptions for 237 yards and accounted for nine total touchdowns.
“When the line is blocking, it’s just there,” Stovie said. “I just try and do what I can do for the team. If everybody is doing their job, hopefully I can do mine.”
Seniors Kyle Moeder and Nate Skala have the potential to lead the way at receiver, while the offensive line is anchored by guards Wyatt Johnson and 6-foot-4, 310-pound junior Josh Volk.
“For his size, he’s got really good feet,” Coach Schulte said of Volk. “He can move and he’s got nimble feet. The fact that he is a basketball player and he is really good in track at the shot and discus where you have to move your feet. It all kind of helps. Each sport ties in with the other one. It’s helping him.”
Volk already has scholarship offers from Iowa and Iowa State, but an early commitment is unlikely because his offer list should grow with another productive varsity season. Much like his coach and teammates, Volk has his priorities in line with what will keep the Saints successful.
“Hard work and getting after it every single day will help,” Volk said.
The Xavier defense lost its top four tacklers due to graduation, which creates more opportunities for players like senior linebacker Ethan Hurkett and senior D-lineman Kyle Krezek.
The Saints also return one of the best kickers in the state in senior Ben Conrad, who converted 9 of 13 field goals last season, including a 40-yard boot.
Xavier is in a district with Center Point-Urbana, Dubuque Wahlert, Maquoketa, Marion and Western Dubuque. The Saints open the season on Friday at perennial 1A power Iowa City Regina.
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“Our non-district schedule is as good as any 3A team in the state,” Duane Schulte said. “And then our district has some really good teams in it, so it kind of reminds me of the old MVC schedule where every Friday night is going to be a dogfight.”
Cedar Rapids Xavier, at a glance
Coach: Duane Schulte (20th year at Xavier, 153-65; 24th overall, 178-79)
Last year: 13-0, Class 3A state champions
Top returners: QB Quinn Schulte, RB Braden Stovie, OL Josh Volk, OL Wyatt Johnson, DL Kyle Krezek, K Ben Conrad, LB Ethan Hurkett, WR Kyle Moeder, OL Issac Ball
Key to making the playoffs: Experienced offensive playmakers will be essential in four non-district games.
Games to watch: The Saints have arguably the most challenging non-district schedule in Class 3A, which begins on the road against a perennial 1A power.
Aug 24 — at Iowa City Regina
Aug 31 — Decorah
Sept. 7 — Davenport Assumption
Sept. 14 — at West Delaware
Sept. 21 — at Maquoketa
Sept. 28 — Dubuque Wahlert
Oct. 5 — Western Dubuque
Oct. 12 — at Center Point-Urbana
Oct. 19 — at Marion
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