Prep Football

Western Dubuque's magical run goes all the way to the finals

Bobcats beat Sergeant Bluff-Luton in Class 3A semifinals, 35-18

CEDAR FALLS — Calvin Harris is a baseball guy. Through and through.

Just a junior, already he has already committed to play collegiately at the University of Mississippi. The Southeastern Conference is just a little bit strong, if you didn’t know.

But the Western Dubuque multi-sport star decided in August that he didn’t want to play hardball with some schoolmates and other Dubuque County cohorts on a team that ended up making it all the way to the American Legion World Series.

The reason? You found out Thursday night.

“I really wanted to get ready for football this year,” Harris said, after Western Dubuque beat Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 35-18, in a Class 3A semifinal at the UNI-Dome. “(Teammates) Kyle (Lehmann) and Sam (Goodman) did a really good job with the American Legion team. They made a great run. That was a lot of fun. But this was definitely our goal (here), to get to the state championship game. It’s awesome. We had our goals set pretty high, and we always wanted to work hard to back them up. We’re very fortunate to be here.”

Harris ran for a touchdown and threw two to Drake George as WD (10-2) disposed of the new RPI system’s top-seeded team in 3A and earned its first trip to the finals since winning it all in 2001. SBL (10-2) got that distinction despite having lost in the regular season to Lewis Central by 28 points.

The Bobcats will meet unbeaten, top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier in the title game next Thursday night at 7.

Xavier smoked Western Dubuque in Week 7 by a 35-0 score in the regular season. Top running back Ben Bryant suffered a season-ending knee injury that game, and the Bobcats have lost linemen Joe Loffa and Tim Feltes as well along the way.

Yet, here they are, and they’ve earned it. knocking off three ranked teams.

“We just had guys step into the fold,” said Coach Justin Penner. “Our kids are very disciplined, but I would also say our kids are winners.”

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The game swung late in the third quarter thanks to the heroics of Will Burds. SBL had just scored a touchdown to cut Western Dubuque’s lead to 14-12, with the ensuing kickoff going out of bounds.

Penner made SBL rekick, Burds fielded it at his 10 and weaved his way 90 yards for a touchdown. Late in the fourth quarter, he field a bouncing onside kick attempt and housed it 48 yards to officially put the game away.

Those were the third and fourth kickoff returns for TDs this season for the junior.

“Best call I made all night was when my assistant told me to rekick the ball,” Penner deadpanned.

“I’d say the first one, just because it kind of set the tone for the rest of the game,” Burds said, when asked which was his favorite. “You could tell they were down after that. Our offense started pounding once they got the ball back. The second one just kind of finished it off.”

Western Dubuque did a solid job defensively against Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s spread attack. The Bobcats gave up a lot of underneath stuff, but rarely got beaten deep.

Daniel Wright completed 27 of 41 passes for 248 yards and a pair of TDs.

“The biggest thing was coming out with energy,” said WD cornerback Collin Hogan. “You can’t be flat, you have to bring your own energy. We had to work as one group. We had to be a team. Making tackles, making reads, push through, keep fighting.”

All the way to the final.

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

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