CEDAR FALLS, Iowa The David versus Goliath stuff was overwrought and completely inaccurate. Despite the huge difference in their enrollments, Cedar Rapids Xavier and Ankeny definitely belonged on the same football field.
You had to be ignorant not to think that, especially after last night's Class 4A state championship game.
But if you want to go with that theme, Goliath is your Class 4A state champion. Quarterback Joel Lanning's 5-yard touchdown keeper with 3:16 left gave the top-ranked Hawks a 23-17 win over No. 3 Xavier at the UNI-Dome.
"We didn't tell our kids it was David versus Goliath," Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. "We didn't tell them anything. Just to come up here and play a good football game against a good football team. They just came up a little bit short."
This one wasn't decided until a bizzare final offensive series by Xavier (13-1) died near midfield with 40 seconds left. A Reggie Schulte Hail Mary fell harmlessly out of bounds inside the Ankeny 15 to officially end the Saints' hopes.
Xavier actually looked in prime position for a dramatic tying touchdown, reaching the Ankeny 38 at one point in the drive. A pass completion to Wes Gardner inside the Hawks 20 was called back on an illegal formation penalty, and it all went downhill from there.
"They said we weren't in the right formation, but I thought we were OK," Schulte said. "I can't say that for sure. I'll have to watch the film and see."
Xavier seemed to catch a huge break two plays later when Ankeny (14-0) was called for a personal foul for a player bumping Reggie Schulte needlessly after an incompletion on a 3rd-and-26 play.
That's not an automatic first down by prep rule, bringing up a 4th-and-11, though the yard marker signalled first down. Only after an ensuing false start call did the yard marker go back to fourth, causing a confused Xavier to burn its final timeout.
Each team was called for 13 penalties in the game, many of the false-start variety because of a loud and large UNI-Dome crowd.
"I thought it was first down," Coach Schulte said. "That's what the ball marker said. It's all a blur kind of now, but I do destinctively remember thinking 'OK, it's first down, so we can call a regular play instead of a Hail Mary.'"
There were times in the first half when Ankeny seemed unstoppable rushing the football, yet Xavier ended up with a 14-12 lead at halftime. The Hawks had a staggering 199 rushing yards the first two quarters but scored only one touchdown: a Lanning 15-yard run.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Iowa State recruit finished with 164 yards on the ground. Ankeny was limited to 63 rushing yards in the second half, as Xavier made adjustments to Ankeny's shotgun, misdirection offense.
"He's a phenomenal player," Xavier linebacker Craig Murtha said of Lanning. "He's a big kid to try and take down. Give all the credit to him."
Xavier got its run game going in the second half, which allowed it to keep the lead until late. Brendan Miller was terrific at running back, with 123 yards and both Xavier TDs.
Reggie Schulte completed 14 of 24 passes for 127 yards and was intercepted twice.
"We left it out on the field," said Xavier receiver Corbin Woods, who had five catches for 82 yards.
"Hard to believe. Just surreal," Reggie Schulte said. "I don't know what to say. I'm just so proud of everyone on this team and in our community."
Ankeny got the first big break of the game when it smothered a Nick Hazelton punt attempt from the Xavier 14, the ball bouncing all the way out of the end zone for a safety. That came less than five minutes in.
Ankeny drove to the Xavier 21 on its first possession behind five consecutive runs, but Trey Sampson intercepted a Lanning pass at the Saints 1 to kill the drive. Ankeny reached the Xavier 22 on its next possession, but Hunter Baldus recovered an Ian Begg fumble.
Xavier got a huge individual effort from Woods to score its first points. Woods took a bubble screen pass, broke a tackle in the middle of the field and sprinted free to the Ankeny 10. On the next play, Brendan Miller ran off-tackle right for the touchdown and a 7-2 lead.
Heath Naylor's 43-yard field goal for Ankeny early in the second quarter made it a unique 7-5 score. Lanning's TD made it 12-7 Ankeny, but Daniel Vega pounced on an Ankeny fumble at the Hawks 26, which led to a 7-yard Miller touchdown.
Ryan Persick kicked a 31-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half to put Xavier in front, 17-12, but that would be the Saints' last points. Naylor nailed a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth to make it 17-15.
Ankeny's winning drive began at its 48. Lanning threw a quick pass to Marshall Clark, who broke a tackle and ran 34 yards to the Xavier 7, setting up a first-and-goal.
Lanning ran an option play into the end zone two plays later and threw for the two-point conversion.