CEDAR RAPIDS — Woe was not them.
An early 14-point swing went against them. They committed three first-half turnovers.
“The kids could have hung their heads,” Cedar Rapids Xavier football coach Duane Schulte said. “They could have said, ‘Woe is me.’
“But they came back and showed some grit.”
Jaxon Rexroth bounced back with three rushing touchdowns, and also intercepted two fourth-quarter passes to lead top-ranked Xavier past Grinnell, 21-7, in a Class 3A state football quarterfinal Friday night at Saints Field.
“It feels great to be going to the UNI-Dome, but we’re not done yet,” defensive lineman Josh Barish said.
The Saints (10-0) will play their semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 8 North Scott (7-1).
Xavier defeated Grinnell, 44-20, in the regular season, but it was apparent early that the rematch would be more much challenging.
The Saints were on the doorstep on their second possession, driving to the Grinnell 1-yard line, but a center/quarterback exchange went awry, and the Tigers recovered.
“We got a little excited there,” Rexroth said. “That will happen sometimes.”
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On the very next play, Cole McGriff lofted a fade pass to Kyle Dillon, who got behind the defender, caught it around the 30 and took it the distance, a 99-yard completion.
Instead of a 7-0 lead, Xavier faced a 7-0 deficit.
“I had a feeling after the fumble that they were going to make a big play,” Schulte said.
The Saints got even on their next possession, driving 80 yards in nine plays, with Rexroth capping it on a 15-yard score.
Grinnell (8-3) missed a 25-yard field goal at the end of the first half, and it remained 7-7 at halftime.
Tigers running back Wyatt Hunter came into the game with 2,207 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns — both of which lead 3A — but was held to 86 yards Friday.
“We watched a lot of film, read our keys and played hard, played fast,” Barish said.
The Saints stuffed Hunter on fourth-and-1 from the Xavier 34 on the first drive of the second half, and that swung the momentum Xavier’s way for good.
A 38-yard pass from Rexroth to Nick Lemke put Xavier at the Grinnell 2, and Rexroth took it in from there. Rexroth clinched it with a 23-yard scoring run with 2:15 left, and also picked off two passes in the fourth quarter.
“Our defensive line put pressure on them, and that allowed me to make a couple of plays,” he said.
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