ELDRIDGE — Cedar Rapids Xavier’s reign has come to an end.
The Saints weren’t able to extend an impressive stretch that included three trips to the UNI-Dome and two consecutive unbeaten state title seasons.
Xavier committed five turnovers and North Scott’s Carter Markham plunged in from 1 yard out with 1:09 left, helping fourth-ranked North Scott upend the No. 2 Saints, 9-3, in a Class 3A first-round state playoff football game Friday in cold, wet and mucky conditions at Lancer Field.
Time after time the Saints defense turned the Lancers away, despite five turnovers, including three fumbles.
“We had way too many mistakes and turnovers,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “We played great defense. Hats off to our kids. It was one of those tough nights to move the ball. It was hard to hold on to the ball. It was a wet, slick ball.”
Six times North Scott (9-1) opened possessions inside Xavier territory, including the decisive one that started with 3:02 remaining. The Lancers were able to cap off a 47-yard drive with a crucial 35-yard completion to the 1 from Jake Matthaidess to Ben Belken.
“The odds are against you when you have to do it that many times,” Schulte said. “Our kids played tough.”
The defense got little break in the second half. The longest drive for the Saints offense was just six plays, going three-and-out three times, fumbling on the first play of one possession and then fumbling the following punt back to the Lancers.
North Scott had more punts (11) than points scored.
“We played our butts off,” Xavier linebacker Ethan Hurkett said. “We gave it everything we had. You can’t do much more than that.”
Xavier was without running back Kaiden Cuevas, who is the team’s leading rusher and scorer. He was day-to-day with a lower-leg injury, according to Schulte.
North Scott didn’t even manage a first down until the final 90 seconds of the first half. The second half wasn’t that much better, but the Lancers were able to break through for the game-winner and get on the board with a 55-yard drive that resulted in an Ethan Fairfield 24-yard field goal to make it, 3-3.
Matthaidess had 81 of his 96 passing yards in the second half and North Scott only mustered 135 total.
“We talked all week that we knew this was going to be a heavyweight fight,” Tippet said. “Two good football teams battling back and forth. We knew our defense and their defense has been playing great all year long and points were going to be hard to come by. Our defense played great tonight. Offensively, we found a little rhythm in the second half and moved a little more. Special teams were key, flipping field position. It was gutty by our kids. It was a good tough, high school football game.”
Xavier was able to produce one scoring drive in the first half. The Saints went 84 yards with Tyler Dupont connecting on long passes to Mac Mahurin (49 yards) and Jack Breitbach (36 yards) to set up Carter Diebold’s 23-yard field goal for a 3-0 edge at the half.
The loss and the weather doesn’t put a damper on what the Saints have accomplished, especially the senior class.
“Hats off to our seniors,” Schulte said. “They had a bunch of pressure on them going into this year, but they should be proud of themselves. How many kids get to be part of two state championships, 32-game winning streak and making the playoffs? Some of them lost two games in three years. That is heck of a career.”
Xavier finishes the season 8-2 with a 34-2 mark the last three years.
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“This whole ride has been unbelievable,” Hurkett said. “These coaches have changed my life. They made me the man I am today. I’m forever grateful.”
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