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State Football: Xavier Gets Ready For Tough Test Vs. Ankeny In 4A Finals

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa Duane Schulte almost considers Corbin Woods as family.

"Ever since he was 4 or 5, he has spent a lot of time in our back yard," said Schulte, the football coach at Cedar Rapids Xavier.

Almost like another son?

"I don't know if I'd go that far," Schulte said. "Maybe like a nephew."

And definitely a role model.

"You know, in my youngest son (Quinn, a sixth-grader), I see a lot of the same attributes that Corbin has," Schulte said. "The same demeanor. And I think if he grows up and turns out like Corbin, that would be awesome."

When informed of Schulte's words, Woods' eyes brightened.

"Wow, he said that?" Woods said. "That's very flattering. I'm honored. That means a lot."

Woods has meant a lot to third-ranked Xavier, which takes a 13-0 record into Friday's Class 4A state-championship game against No. 1 Ankeny (13-0). Among the state's 47 4A schools, Woods ranks 14th in receptions (54), fifth in receiving yards (1,086) and third in receiving touchdowns (15). He also has a punt return for a touchdown.

Not bad for a secondary sport. Baseball is Woods' love, and his future.

"I really go from sport to sport, season to season," said Woods, whose older brother Nate played collegiately and in the minor leagues. "But my heart is with baseball, and I really want to go to the next level in baseball."

So Friday's game at the UNI-Dome, in all likelihood, will mark the final time Woods straps on the helmet and the shoulder pads. And it will mark the final time Schulte's son Reggie the Saints' quarterback will look for his favorite target.

"I've thrown him a lot of passes, too many to count," Reggie said before practice Tuesday. "He's a good all-around athlete. He's always been the best athlete in our grade."

Last year, Xavier was 5-5 and didn't last beyond the first round of the playoffs. This year, they've been nothing short of dominant, outscoring their opposition by an average of 33 points per game. Nobody has stayed closer than 17 points of the Saints, who have the stingiest defense in 4A at 7.5 points per game.

Some of the change is physical. Some of it is chemistry-based.

"We had good leaders last year, too," Woods said. "There's just something different about this group. The seniors and the juniors mix in so well together."

Reggie Schulte said, "You could tell during summer workouts that the chemistry was going to be special. Every guy on this team would do anything for any other guy."

Woods sacrificed his position. He was a quarterback during his early youth days, through his freshman season, before deferring to Reggie Schulte. And he sacrificed his time. Despite his baseball commitments, he didn't miss a weight room session for football in four years.

Thirty-one years ago, Woods' father Curt quarterbacked Cedar Rapids Prairie to a state championship. Friday, Corbin will pursue a title of his own. Most folks consider Ankeny the favorite.

"They've got more size than us, more speed than us," Woods said. "But this team has shown a lot of heart and a lot of character all year, so we have that going for us."


Time and site: 7:06 p.m. Friday, at UNI-Dome

TV: KCRG 9.2

Records and rankings: No. 1 Ankeny is 13-0; No. 3 Xavier is 13-0.

Notable: The Saints return to the Class 4A title since winning the 2006 state title. Both teams field two of 4A's top passers. Xavier's Reggie Schulte has thrown for 2,373 yards and 37 TDs. Ankeny's Joel Lanning, who signed to play at Iowa State, 2,188 yards and 22 TDs. Saints wide receiver Corbin Woods has almost half of Schulte's yardage, amassing 1,086 yards on 54 catches. Ankeny's leading rusher is Ian Begg, who has 1,112 yards and 14 TDs. Brendan Miller counters for Xavier, rushing for 944 yards and eight TDs. The Saints defense hasn't faced an offense like Ankeny, which averages a little more than 45 points per game. Xavier's defense has been solid this year, allowing about 7.5 points a game and forcing 29 total turnovers