CEDAR FALLS — Waukon waited a long time for its first state football semifinal appearance.
The Indians didn’t step onto the UNI-Dome turf until 2013, parlaying the opportunity into a state runner-up finish. They also made sure their return came sooner than later.
Waukon has become a UNI-Dome regular, making its third straight trip that started with the 2017 state title run.
The top-ranked Indians will attempt to claim their second crown in three seasons, facing No. 4 Ida Grove OABCIG in the Class 2A state championship game Friday at 1 p.m. Waukon (12-0) reached the finals for the third time in school history.
“It feels great,” Waukon senior Dawson Baures said after the 32-14 semifinal victory over Williamsburg. “We made it to the semifinals last year and couldn’t make that next step. We put in a lot of work in the offseason to make sure we could take that final step. It showed.”
Baures was one of a few Indians underclassmen who made a contribution that season, playing on both sides of the ball in the semifinals and finals. He developed into an offensive leader for the Indians that year, rushing for 1,255 yards and receiving 1,001 more with 31 total touchdowns.
This season, Baures leads Waukon with 1,637 total yards, including 1,181 on the ground with 20 TDs.
“Dawson is the only one that played a significant role two years ago, of this group here now,” Waukon Coach Chad Beerman said. “We had a bunch of juniors and sophomores last year that helped out with only a few seniors. That is a really experienced group of kids that this was a goal to get here. To make their own statement, write their own story. That’s what they’re doing.”
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Baures showed his big-play ability the Indians expect, exploding for a 78-yard TD run that set the tone against the Raiders Saturday. It’s no wonder he is able to average 10.6 yards per touch.
“It was perfectly blocked,” Baures said. “The only person I had to beat was the corner we don’t have accounted for in our blocking scheme. I was able to beat him and take off.”
The Indians have more weapons. Ethan O’Neill has more than 1,000 yards of offense. Quarterback Creed Welch has 2,328 yards, including 2,109 passing, and 32 TDs. Waukon’s offense has scored 32 or more points in 10 of 12 victories and 116 in three postseason games.
“I think things went smoother for us (in the semifinal),” Beerman said. “Those kids will make those plays when they get the chance.”
Waukon’s defense has been solid throughout the season, allowing 12.75 points per game. The Indians face a tough challenge in 2A’s leader in passing yards (3,356) and scoring with 555 points.
OABCIG quarterback Cooper DeJean sits atop 2A with 4,418 total yards, including a class-best 3,294 through the air. He has accounted for 62 total touchdowns.
Waukon coaches watched part of OABCIG’s first half against Algona Saturday. DeJean threw for 397 yards and four TDs, adding 80 yards and a score rushing in the 41-32 victory.
Beerman compared OABCIG (12-0) with Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, which the Indians have split with in their last two state semifinals.
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“They’re going to put the ball in the air,” Beerman said. “Their quarterback is a tremendous football player, not just quarterback, because he is a safety on defense. He was covering the No. 1 receiver for the other team during the game, so they’re going to be tough.”
The Indians have been waiting for this moment since the end of last season. They have grown to expect these chances.
“Our goal was to get to that point and go from there,” O’Neill said. “We did that. We worked hard throughout the whole season in the weight room and everything.”
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