Prep Football

Iowa high school football rewind: Montezuma receiving trio thrives in quarterfinal victory

Braves reach semifinals for second time in school history; Xavier marches back to UNI-Dome

Montezuma Braves
Montezuma Braves

MONTEZUMA — Many eyes have been fixed on Montezuma quarterback Eddie Burgess and the astounding offensive statistics he has produced.

Rightfully so, but on the other end of his state-leading passing numbers is a group of talented receivers. They played a major role Friday night.

Trey Shearer, Kodie Strong and Cole Watts each surpassed 140 receiving yards in the fifth-ranked Braves’ 62-35 state football quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Easton Valley at Badger-Gabriel Field. Montezuma (10-0) advanced to the semifinals for the second time in school history and faces No. 2 Remsen St. Mary’s (10-0) at the UNI-Dome Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m.

“It’s a great blessing to have such great young men,” Montezuma Coach Pat O’Brien said. “They’re truly selfless. It’s amazing to see.”

Burgess passed for 517 yards and seven touchdowns, bringing his season totals to 3,107 and 50. Shearer had 156 yards on 11 catches and two scores. Watts added 141 yards with a score on eight receptions. The Braves scored the most in a game against Easton Valley, which allowed just 17.7 points per game and shut out three foes including Gladbrook-Reinbeck to reach the quarterfinals.

“(Assistant coach) John Beck has done a phenomenal job calling plays all year, taking what they’re giving us,” O’Brien said. “He does well making calls and the kids do great executing.”

Strong scorched Easton Valley routinely, catching eight passes for 189 yards and four TDs. He posted season highs in all three. His previous best game was four catches for 121 yards and two scores against Winfield-Mount Union on Sept. 4.

The River Hawks focused on Shearer and Watts and never adjusted to take away Strong.

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“Codie is a tremendous young man and has done everything except play offensive line,” O’Brien said. “He gets lost in the mix. He’s just as good as Cole and Trey. He’s open a lot.

“It makes us more dynamic. We have a lot of athletes.”

Shearer and Watts rank 1-2 in the state with 1,247 and 1,210 receiving yards, respectively. Shearer, who will play basketball next year at Truman State, is tops in Iowa with 24 receiving TDs, while Watts is tied for second with 17.

“They utilize their gifts to the best of their ability,” O’Brien said. “They do a great job in space, using their shiftiness and athleticism.”

This year marks the first year Montezuma has reached the playoffs since moving to 8-Player. The Braves reached the semifinals for the first time since 2006 when they were the Class 1A runners-up.

Players were elated Friday night, but were back to work Saturday. The team was already busy watching film on a big and athletic Remsen St. Mary’s team.

“Our minds have shifted quickly,” O’Brien said. “The end game is to win two more games and not just getting to the Dome.”

Xavier Saints march back to UNI-Dome

Cedar Rapids Xavier defeated Grinnell 21-7 to secure its ninth semifinal berth and improve its postseason record to 34-13 all-time. Seven of those appearances and 25 of those wins have come since 2012.

The Saints were Class 4A runners-up in 2012 and 2013 and won consecutive 3A titles in 2017 and 2018. Continuity has been key.

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“A lot of it has to do with that I’ve been lucky to have a good coaching staff,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “They’ve been loyal. We’ve had consistency with our staff.”

 

Many of the coaches in the program were former Saints. Reggie Schulte, Nick Garland and Joey Drahozal are regular varsity assistants. The younger Schulte quarterbacked the Saints to the 2012 title game. Garland was a senior on the 2009 semifinal team, while Drahozal was on the 2017 championship team. Ben Helms and Eric Gilmour help as well.

Other Xavier football alumni like Dan Halter, Sam Meyers and Ben Fahnle helped with the lower levels. Don’t forget former Cedar Rapids LaSalle players like the elder Schulte, his brother Darrel, Jim O’Connell, Kevin Malloy and Tom Ekland in the program. Coaches Tom Lilly and Brad Stovie played for Cedar Rapids Regis. They promote the tradition and expectation that have been the program’s cornerstone.

“Obviously, they’re dedicated to Xavier,” said Schulte, who is the Saints’ only head football coach since the merger in 1998. “I’d like to think they had a good experience when they played with us and that’s what drew them back.

“Most importantly, they are all good men.”

Top-ranked Xavier (10-0) will face No. 8 North Scott (7-1) in a 3A semifinal Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The game is a rematch of last year’s sloppy first-round game the Lancers won, 9-3, at home. Revenge is the furthest thing from the Saints’ minds.

“It really isn’t a rematch,” Duane Schulte said. “Many of the players are different. We just look at it as another opportunity to go to the UNI-Dome and play.”

Rematch results

The quarterfinal round consisted of seven rematches of regular-season contests. Four teams were able to earn a second straight victory, including Xavier over Grinnell and Camanche against West Liberty in 2A.

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Third-ranked Ankeny (4A), No. 7 South Central Calhoun and Council Bluffs St. Albert (A) avenged earlier losses. Ankeny dropped No. 4 Waukee 28-7, overturning a four-point loss Sept. 4.

South Central Calhoun reversed its only loss, beating No. 6 Southeast Valley, 26-6. St. Albert, which opened the season with two losses, beat No. 6 Logan-Magnolia, 24-0. Lo-Ma won the previous meeting, 28-7. St. Albert has won eight straight.

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