CEDAR FALLS — It’s the championship matchup everyone wanted. Well, sort of.
The bottom line is you’ll have two unbeaten teams in next week’s Class 4A title game. Iowa City High held up its end of the bargain in the eastern part of the state, scoring a touchdown in each of the first three quarters to beat Cedar Rapids Xavier, 21-3, in Friday’s second playoff semifinal at the UNI-Dome.
The Little Hawks (13-0) are in the finals for the sixth time, drawing championship game rookie Marshalltown (13-0) next weekend here. The Bobcats scored a TD with five seconds left to give West Des Moines Dowling its first loss, 28-25, in the first 4A semifinal.
“Yeah, it feels good,” said City High quarterback A.J. Derby. “But at the same time, we’ve got to take it (all) in tonight, then tomorrow, we’ve got to go back to it and start preparing for Marshalltown.”
The unique thing is it’ll be the first time this postseason City High won’t be facing someone it played in the regular season. The Little Hawks — who had previous postseason wins over Iowa City West, Dubuque Hempstead and Cedar Rapids Washington — had to get a late kickoff return to beat Xavier in Week 3, 24-17, but was rather methodical in beating the Saints (10-3) easier this time around.
“Three points against Xavier, in the semifinals of state,” said Derby, also a safety. “I don’t know, that’s pretty impressive.”
“I felt like we had our chances, but you’ve got to give them credit,” said Xavier Coach Duane Schulte. “It’s not a cliche, they’re a good football team, I think. Is that what it looked like?”
Despite running back Pat Chizek gouging it for 58 yards, City High held Xavier to a 38-yard Charlie Bales field goal on the first possession of the game. That proved big when the Little Hawks responded with a touchdown on their first possession, Derby hooking up with John Chelf for a 24-yard TD pass on 4th-and-6.
Derby completed 12 of 18 passes for 181 yards, throwing for a TD and running for one.
“That’s the thing about our defense,” said Chelf, also a cornerback who helped limit Xavier to 66 passing yards. “We bent but we didn’t break. That first drive they were running it down our throats, but we found a way to get the stops at the end.”
Xavier got as far as the City High 21 again on its second possession but Derby intercepted a Joe Sayre pass in the end zone. An Andrew McNulty pick and run back in the second quarter brought the football to the Xavier 25, leading to an Adam Prybil 2-yard TD run for City High.
Chizek finished with 154 yards rushing on 22 carries for Xavier, though standout receiver Colin O’Connor was limited to three catches for 22 yards.
“The kids had a great season,” Schulte said. “If you had told me when we were 1-2 that we’d be in the semifinals and get 10 wins, (finish in) the top four in the state … that’s pretty good.”