CEDAR FALLS, Iowa Late in the third quarter, Josey Jewell ill-advisedly tried to pick up a punt that had sailed over his head and was bouncing crazily on the UNI-Dome turf.
As you'd expect, he failed to field the football cleanly and had to flop on it hurriedly. Forgive the kid, though, because he deserved a break.
Football is the ultimate team game, and Decorah's Class 3A state football championship was the ultimate team accomplishment. You don't go 14-0 without something from everyone.
But last night's 49-21 title game win over Sioux City Heelan was a lot about one individual Jewell.
"He's a special player," Heelan Coach Roger Jansen said. "No doubt about that. He's physical, athletic, a play maker."
Put an emphasis on that last thing. Jewell rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns, setting up TDs with a diving reception, a fullback pass, a punt return and an interception.
He finished with 229 yards of all-purpose yardage and his team's leading tacker.
"He was the difference maker for us," said Decorah Coach Bill Post. "He's the kind of guy where the bigger the game is, the better he plays. The more pressure, the more intense the game is, he'll step up even more."
"Every practice, every game," said Decorah quarterback Jacob Kvale, who ran and threw for a touchdown. "He plays 100 percent all the time. He's a great guy to have on the team. So glad he's on our team instead of somebody else's."
Decorah went wire to wire for its fifth state championship, its first since 1989. The Vikings lost in last year's finals to LaPorte City Union, but were ranked No. 1 preseason and embraced that pressure.
"We had a bad taste in our mouth the whole year," Jewell said. "We wanted to get back here. This feels a lot better. Last year was just sore and sad."
It was Heelan (12-2) that was sore and sad this time, as Decorah's Wing-T offense produced 280 rushing yards, with old fashioned topping flashy. The Vikings grabbed a 21-0 first-quarter lead thanks to picks of 3,000-yard passer Trent Solsma by cornerback Brent Johnson and linebacker Josh Ihde. Heelan rallied to 21-14 by halftime, but Decorah had another 21-point quarter in the third.
"We knew we had to come out with a fast start," Johnson said. "We knew they were going to spread it all over the field."
"I knew if we could weather that storm at the end of the first half, we'd have a good shot to come out and get at them right away again in the second half," Kvale said.
Holt Johansen rushed for a pair of scores for Decorah, with Michael Peter adding a TD catch. Great finish for a great team.
"Really a dream team," Post said. "Pretty solid in all areas of the game, quick for our size of school, physical. We've always been a physical team, that's one of the things we always try to emphasize. We try to power teams and get after them, and these guys really took that to heart. They just excelled at it."