CEDAR FALLS – We’re here at the UNI-Dome for the Class 3A portion of the state playoff semifinals. Game one features two of the biggest traditional powers in Iowa in Decorah (10-2) and Harlan (9-3).
Harlan uncharacteristically lost three times in the regular season: to Denison-Schleswig (43-42), Carroll (42-20) and Creston (42-20). Decorah lost in the regular season to LaPorte City Union (20-17) and West Delaware (38-21). The Vikings avenged the loss to WD in the 3A quarterfinals, while Union is in Monday’s other 3A semifinal.
Harlan is in the semifinals for the 26th time, holding an overall playoff record of 88-19. The school has a record 12 championships and eight runner-up finishes. Decorah is in the playoffs for the 20th time, with 10 semifinal appearances and four titles.
16 seconds in and Decorah has a 7-0 lead. Running back Kyle Hove ran a quick pitch left 14 yards out of bounds on the first play. Then fullback Josey Jewell broke loose up the middle for a 66-yard touchdown. Extra point by Josh Lee was good.
On Harlan’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Zach Osborn was sacked from behind and stripped of the ball by Decorah end Jacob Humpal. Safety Gavin Nimrod plopped on the fumble at the Harlan 11.
On 3rd-and-4 from the 5, Hove ran a counter up the middle and into the end zone for another Decorah TD. Lee’s extra point stunningly made it 14-0 just 1:54 in.
Thanks to what turned out to be a 22-yard penalty for facemask, Harlan had to punt on its next possession. Jewell then fumbled after gaining enough for a first down at the Vikings 40, with lineman Brock Travis recovering for Harlan. But Decorah returned the favor, with safety Gayge Samuelson intercepting a pass that deflected off the hands of a Harlan receiver at the Decorah 26.
Harlan finally got something going offensively, going on a mammoth 20-play drive that culminated in a 5-yard TD pass from QB Mitch Osborn to Lucas Musich. XP was good. 5:34 left in the half at the time of the score. Drive took almost eight minutes.
Decorah responded with a drive that reached the Harlan 35 before fizzling and forcing a punt. Decorah outgained Harlan in the first half by a 177-118 margin. Every Viking yard came on the ground.
Harlan comes out throwing in the second half, moving the football to the Decorah 24. But Osborn threw an ill-advised pass deep over the middle on first down into double coverage that was intercepted by Samuelson.
The teams exchanged punts, then Decorah put together a huge drive that was finished off by a 39-yard TD run by Jewell. Similar play to his first TD, a fullback dive off a belly option. XP made it 21-7 Decorah with 1:29 left in third quarter.
Decorah seemed to put it away on the first play of the fourth quarter. Kyle Hove took a handoff from QB Blake Moen, then handed off to wingback Drew Schwartz on a double-handoff counter that went 50 yards for a touchdown and a 28-7 Decorah lead after the extra point.
In full desperation mode, Harlan attempted a fake punt from its own 30 that was stopped easily by Decorah. Gayge Samuelson eventually ran one over from the 6 for a 35-7 Decorah lead with 5:54 left in the game.