Prep Football

No. 1 Xavier blows past Decorah to earn matchup with No. 2 Lewis Central in 3A semifinals

CEDAR RAPIDS — Before he conducted a postgame interview, Duane Schulte politely asked if he could be a father for a few minutes first.

The Cedar Rapids Xavier football coach stood with other Saints parents, watching and shooting photos as 31 seniors lined up together and walked the grass turf at Saints Field for the last time. This group never lost a game here, from their freshmen year to Friday night’s 42-6 win over Decorah in a Class 3A playoff quarterfinal.

Those seniors included the coach’s youngest son. Quinn, who ran for a touchdown and threw for another. A Schulte has quarterbacked Xavier for eight straight wonderful seasons: from Reggie to Bryce to Quinn.

Duane Schulte held in the emotions of this postgame moment well. At least until Quinn came over, gave him a hug and said “I love you, dad.”

Then the tears started flowing.

“It’s surreal in a way,” Coach Schulte said. “I’m just trying to soak it all in, you know? The last time for these guys on this field. It’s been fun coaching them.”

Top-ranked Xavier (11-0) dominated a rematch of a regular-season game the Saints won, 45-3. The yardage totals told the entire story here, as Xavier had 400 yards to Decorah’s 37.

Running back Braden Stovie scored three first-half touchdowns, including a 75-yard reception on a wheel rout. He finished with 150 yards rushing on 17 attempts.

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“Our line just really started getting a surge, and that’s when they started feeding (me),” Stovie said. “Those guys just did a great job tonight.”

Nathan Skala added a 53-yard punt return for score in the first half, as Xavier built a 28-0 halftime lead. Schulte and fullback Jon Bell had TD runs in the second half, the continuous clock going into motion for the 10th time in Xavier’s 11 games this season.

The exception was last week’s 14-6 first-round escape of Pella.

“It was nice to get that win, but I think we learned from it,” Stovie said. “We learned from our mistakes. We learned what we need to do better.”

This was not a good matchup offensively for Decorah (7-4). The Vikings are a run-heavy team, with Xavier having a run-stuffing defense.

Decorah did not complete a pass in the regular-season game and completed one Friday night, for one yard. The Vikings’ lone points came on Kailer McCabe’s 98-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.

That was his third this season.

“I think to start, our line got off the ball really well,” said Xavier linebacker Tanner Wright. “They really made it easy for us linebackers to make plays. Our corners, they played amazing. They didn’t let them catch any balls. It just helps when everyone can jell together like that.”

“I thought our kids played well,” Coach Schulte said. “We tried not to get too high or too low this week, just tried to come out and execute. You’ve got to give credit to our kids. They bought in and accepted their roles.”

What’s up next for Xavier is the 3A semifinals Thursday night at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. Due to the vagaries of the new RPI system the Iowa High School Athletic Association employed for the playoffs this year, the opponent will be second-ranked Council Bluffs Lewis Central (11-0).

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Really kind of a shame the two teams most everyone feels are the best in this class have to play before the finals. But it is what it is.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Wright said. “Just as long as we can do what we can do.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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