MARION — Cedar Rapids Xavier has always been an opportunistic football team.
In Friday night’s game against Linn-Mar, the Saints more than lived up to that reputation.
Xavier, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, recovered four Linn-Mar fumbles and turned them into 17 points, to hold on for a thrilling 24-20 win at Linn-Mar Stadium.
And even with the 17 points off turnovers, the Saints got another break in the final two minutes when an apparent go-ahead 78-yard touchdown pass from McKade Jelinek to Cam Guenther was called back due to a block in the back penalty well behind the play.
After the penalty, the Saints were able to hold on downs and escape with the win, moving to 2-0. Linn-Mar fell to 0-2.
The Lions put up plenty of big numbers in the contest. Senior running back Bricen White ran for 161 yards and a touchdown. On defense, the Lions held the Saints to 153 total yards.
However, not only did the Lions lose four fumbles, they lost them deep in their own territory.
The Lions took an early 6-0 lead when sophomore Carter Henderson broke free on a fullback trap and went 47 yards for the score. Nick Lemke gave the Saints the lead at 7-6 when he went in from 16 yards out, after a Lion muff of a punt.
Linn-Mar responded with a 3-yard score from White only to see Xavier score on a leaping catch from Jack Breitbach on a 23-yard toss from Jaxon Rexroth. Linn-Mar fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Saints recovered. They turned the miscue into a 31-yard goal from Lincoln Oakley field goal on the final play of the first half.
The Lions’ fourth lost fumble came in the fourth quarter and it turned into a 24-13 deficit on a pass from Rexroth to Nick Kramer. Still Linn-Mar responded and pulled within four on a sneak from Jelinek with just over five minutes remaining. The defense did its job and gave the offense a final shot.
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On a third-and-long play, Jelinek rolled out and hit Guenther in stride, but the flag behind the play took away the potential winning score.
The Saints return home next Friday to host Clear Creek Amana.
Linn-Mar is scheduled to play next Friday at Iowa City Liberty. However, the Lightning are facing a two-week shutdown to their season because the Iowa City Community School District has decided to go online only with classes for its first two weeks because of increasing COVID-19 numbers. If no classes are held in person, all activities must be shut down.
The Lions are waiting to see about any final decision from Liberty before looking for an alternate opponent next week.
AT LINN-MAR STADIUM CRX LM
First downs 10 19
Rushes-yards 38-99 41-240
Passing yards 54 41
Comp-Att-Int 6-12-1 4-8-0
Punts-Avg. 5-40.0 2-43.0
Fumbles-lost 3-0 4-4
Penalties-Yards 12-67 6-70
C.R. Xavier 0 17 0 7 — 24
Linn-Mar 6 13 0 0 — 20
LM — Carter Henderson 47 run (kick failed)
X — Nick Lemke 16 run (Carter Diebold kick)
LM — Bricen White 3 run (Micah Baumhoefener kick)
X — Jack Breitbach 23 pass from Jaxon Rexroth (Diebold kick)
X — FG Lincoln Oakley 31
X — Nick Kramer 8 pass from Rexroth (Diebold kick)
LM — McKade Jelinek 1 run (Micah Baumhoefener kick)
RUSHING - Xavier: Jack Lux 18-54, Jaxon Rexroth 16-22, Nick Lemke 3-24. Team 1-minus 1). Linn-Mar: Bricen White 25-161, Carter Henderson 3-70, McKade Jelinek 12-10. Mehki Jackson 1-(minus 1).
PASSING - Xavier: Jaxon Rexroth 6-11-1-54, Jack Lux 0-1-0-0. Linn-Mar: McKade Jelinek 4-8-0 38. ,
RECEIVING - Xavier: Nick Mautino, Jack Breitbach 5-46, Nick Kramer 1-8. Linn-Mar: Bricen White 1-13, Carter Henderson 1-14, Jeron Senters 2-14.