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State Football: Xavier Beats Cedar Falls, Advances To 4A Final

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa They gave up a leadoff home run to start the game. But the Cedar Rapids Xavier Saints allowed only a couple of scratch singles after that, and hit a couple of dingers of their own.

Now they're headed back to the Class 4A state championship game for the second time in seven years. Oh, this is football, by the way.

"I was the waterboy back in 2006," Xavier quarterback Reggie Schulte said after Xavier's 27-6 win over Cedar Falls Friday night in a 4A semifinal at the UNI-Dome. "I think I was the best one in the history of the Xavier program, to be honest. That was a lot of fun, and I'm excited to be a part of it now (as a player)."

Xavier (13-0) brushed off an immediate punch in the mouth to beat Cedar Falls (11-2) for the second time this season. The Saints will be the underdog against top-ranked Ankeny (13-0) in next Friday's championship game, but they seem to be relishing that status.

Xavier won it all in 2006.

"Obviously, Ankeny is very good," said Xavier Coach Duane Schulte. "It's David versus Goliath. But we'll try to show up and play."

They played very well defensively after Jake Buck's stunning 80-yard touchdown run for CF on the first play of the game. Buck took a handoff off tackle left and broke free down the sideline.

"Short memory," said Xavier linebacker Craig Murtha. "You've just got to forget that kind of stuff. We can't have that, especially next week. We've got to play better. That first play, that set the tempo for them. We had to step up. After that play, I thought we played a lot better."

"All I remember saying to (assistant) Coach (John) Tursi in the (press) box and the offensive guys was 'We're going to have to score a touchdown to win anyway,'" Coach Schulte said. "That's all we said."

Cedar Falls had just 124 yards the rest of the way, with the Saints stuffing CF's running game and taking advantage of shaky quarterback play. Xavier intercepted Brian Cook four times, two by cornerback Trey Sampson.

Hunter Baldus put the capper on this one with five minutes left by picking off a Cook throw-away attempt as he was being sacked by Logan Clarahan and running it back 6 yards for a touchdown.

"We just had to stick it out, keep working," Sampson said. "Coach told us don't worry about that first play. Stuff happens. We just had to come back stronger, and we did."

Reggie Schulte, meanwhile, had a pair of home-run passing plays of his own.

Early in the second quarter, he lofted an absolutely perfect 43-yard TD pass to a leaping Corbin Woods. That actually beat a double team on Woods by Cedar Falls.

Late in the third quarter, Schulte lofted another perfect pass down the sideline to Nick Steingreaber for a 95-yard pitch and catch for a touchdown that made it a 20-6 game and essentially put Cedar Falls away. Steingreaber and Cedar Falls defensive back Nick DeBuhr appeared to do some hand fighting before the catch, but the officials ruled the pass interference was on DeBuhr, to the dismay of a booing Tigers crowd.

"We were kind of backed up, but I guess we just decided to kind of take a shot there," Reggie Schulte said. "He did a great job running under it. I tried to put some air on it, but he did a great job going and making the play"

Ryan Persick added a pair of field goals for Xavier, one from 25 yards and the other from 39. Schulte completed 6 of 9 passes for 189 yards.

Running back Brendan Miller powered his way to a relatively quiet 154 yards rushing on 29 carries. Other than a 41-yard run late in the game, Miller's gains were mostly of the four and five-yard variety.

"You know, the defense did a great job," said Reggie Schulte. "They didn't really give up too much after that (first play). The team, we didn't panic. We knew we had a lot of time left to make up for it."

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