CEDAR FALLS — It was a tale of two halves.
The first half resembled a video game with both teams combining for five touchdowns in their first five possessions and 37 points in the game’s first six possessions.
The pace slowed down immensely after the break thanks to Cedar Rapids Xavier’s return to ground-and-pound offense and an unfortunate sidelining injury to Western Dubuque standout quarterback Calvin Harris.
Quinn Schulte hit backup running back Patrick Chambers for a 33-yard touchdown and ran for another in the fourth quarter, leading top-ranked Xavier to a 34-20 victory over No. 8 Western Dubuque in the Class 3A state football final Thursday night at the UNI-Dome.
The Saints won their second straight state crown, winning their 26th consecutive game.
“It’s been an incredible ride for us seniors to come out and do a job,” Schulte said. “We’ll have to pass it on to new leaders next year.”
The Saints (13-0) trailed 20-17 to start the third and tied the game on Ben Conrad’s second field goal of the game, this one from 33 yards.
Xavier’s next drive changed the complexion of the game. Without starting running back Braden Stovie, who was seen on crutches after the game, the Saints chewed up time and yardage with the run game. Xavier drove 91 yards on 15 plays, eclipsing 7:22 off the clock and taking a 27-20 lead.
The Saints rushed the ball 13 times on that drive, setting up a play-action pass to Chambers out of the backfield for the decisive score.
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“I don’t really catch a lot of passes in practice,” Chambers said. “I was surprised that he wanted to throw it to me. I had to do my job and the line was perfect, giving Quinn time for me to get open. It was a beautiful pass by Quinn.”
Chambers received word during halftime that he had to be ready to step into the lineup. He finished with 25 rushing yards and two receptions for 37 yards. Those were his only two catches of the season.
“We had Patrick running with the offense the last two weeks in practice,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “We told him to be ready and he was ready. He has the heart of a champion. I can’t say enough about what Patrick Chambers did for this team the last two weeks.”
Ten of the rushes on the go-ahead drive were by Schulte, who amassed 38 of his 221 yards rushing. Actually, Schulte rushed for 159 yards in the final two quarters, including a 1-yard QB sneak with 30 seconds to go to seal it. He added 199 yards passing for 420 total.
“Part of my thought process was that I was going to keep the ball in No. 5’s hands and we’re going to ride him and see where he takes us,” Coach Schulte said. “But, he couldn’t have done anything without the guys up front blocking. A great catch by (Matt Jordebrek) Jordy and Nate Skala. Patrick Chambers stepped it up. It was a total team effort.”
The younger Schulte had a hand in the first two scores. He pushed in for a 1-yard TD, setting it up with a 38-yard pass to Derrick Skala. Schulte hit Jordebrek for a 56-yard score on third-and-8 for a 14-13 lead with 8:36 to go in the half.
Western Dubuque’s offense received a big loss on its second play of the third quarter. Harris was slow to get up from the turf after a hit on a first-down run. He didn’t return to the game and that hampered the Bobcats’ attack after picking up 234 total yards in the first half.
Harris contributed 199 of those yards, including 137 passing with a TD run and a 26-yard TD pass to Payton Quagliano.
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The Saints defense was stout the first two series, turning the Bobcats away on downs deep in their own territory and adding a Schulte interception at the goal line as time expired.
“They were a completely different team than the first time they played us,” Xavier linebacker Ethan Hurkett said. “They came out hitting us. We had to make some second-half adjustments. We got back to the basics. Our coaches put us in the right spots and we executed.”
Xavier captured its third state title in school history. The Saints survived a battle and the hard work paid dividends again.
“I’m happy for all our kids,” Coach Schulte said. “All of them. Obviously, happy for Quinn, but all of our boys were willing to accept their role all year and were willing to get coached hard. We coach these guys hard in practices and they just bought in and were willing to accept whatever we threw at them.”
The victory marked the final time in the last eight seasons Duane Schulte coached one of his sons as a Saints QB. Quinn’s 26-0 mark capped 85 combined wins by him and older brothers Reggie (18-6) and Bryce (41-8). Reggie Schulte is a current Xavier assistant. Duane Schulte was asked if this could be the last game for only head coach in Xavier’s 20-year history.
“No,” Duane Schulte said. “Every year you wait and see what happens and that’s what I’m going to do and go from there.”
Xavier graduates an accomplished senior class, accounting for all but three starting positions this season. The Saints will get back to work soon, trying to maintain the recent success.
“First off, we’re going to enjoy this win,” Hurkett said. “After that, we’ll start the same process, getting in the weight room and running. Getting some money in the bank and see what happens.”
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