CEDAR FALLS — They said coming in they believed they could win. You never should have doubted them.
No, the Western Dubuque Bobcats didn’t claim the Class 3A state football championship game Thursday night. Quarterback Quinn Schulte’s heroics and a second-half rally helped Cedar Rapids Xavier get a second consecutive title, 34-20, at the UNI-Dome.
But Western Dubuque definitely made the Saints earn their repeat.
“I think we proved we belonged in this game,” said WD Coach Justin Penner.
“Coming in, nobody gave us a snowball’s chance in hell,” added fine Western Dubuque receiver Drake George. “It was Xavier by 40, Xavier by 50. But we knew we could win the game. I don’t know. The whole year, we wanted to show them. Let’s put Epworth on the map, and I think we did. We opened a lot of eyes.”
Xavier dominated Western Dubuque in the regular season, 35-0, but this was not that game. Not even close.
WD scored on its first three offensive possesions and took a 20-17 lead into halftime. Bobcats quarterback Calvin Harris, who was sublime with a touchdown rushing and passing in the opening half, scrambled for a first down on his team’s initial second-half possession but suffered a concussion on the play.
In stepped Sam Goodman. Both great baseball players, Harris has committed to Mississippi and Goodman to Wichita State.
“I’m a senior on this team. I love to compete,” Goodman said. “I had to go out there and take it upon myself to be a competitor ... We just came up short.”
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Xavier’s ground-and-pound offense eventually gave it a 27-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Western Dubuque sustained one final drive in the final five minutes, moving to the Xavier 18 on a 31-yard completion from Goodman to Jeffrey Theisen.
Goodman just missed an open George in the corner of the end zone on the ensuing play. After two more incompletions, WD repeated the first-down play, a slot-out route to George.
The pass was thrown to the inside into coverage, and George couldn’t quite make the catch. The Western Dubuque crowd yelped for an interference penalty that never came.
“Whether it was pass interference or not, I still had a shot at catching the ball,” George said. “I didn’t corral it in. They played tight defense. That call could have gone either way. But I’m not going to dwell on it.”
A touchdown in the final seconds sealed the deal for Xavier (13-0).
“I know the juniors and the sophomores are going to be back here next year,” George said. “Everyone is so hard working. There is going to success in all the other sports, too, after this. Everybody is going to do some great things.”
Western Dubuque finished with a 10-3 record and a runner-up trophy. That’s not all bad.
“It doesn’t hurt because we lost,” Penner said. “It hurts because it’s over. This was a great group of kids.”
“Looking back at this (season), no one picked us to be here,” Goodman said. “Once we got here, there might have been people who (said) we didn’t belong here. After this game, they should know we belonged. I think we proved that.”
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