CEDAR FALLS — Late in the third quarter, Josey Jewell ill-advisedly tried to pick up a punt that had sailed over his head and was bouncing crazily on the UNI-Dome turf.
As you’d expect, he failed to field the football cleanly and had to flop on it hurriedly. Forgive the kid, though, because he deserved a break or two or three.
Football is the ultimate team game, and Decorah’s Class 3A state football championship was the ultimate team accomplishment. You don’t go 14-0 without something from everyone.
But Thursday night’s 49-21 title game win over Sioux City Heelan was a lot about one individual — Jewell.
“He’s a special player,” Heelan Coach Roger Jansen said. “No doubt about that. He’s physical, athletic, a play maker.”
Put an emphasis on that last thing. Jewell rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns, setting up TDs with a long, full-out diving reception, a long fullback pass, a long punt return and an interception with a long return.
He finished with 229 all-purpose yards and was his team’s leading tacker.
“He was the difference maker for us,” said Decorah Coach Bill Post. “He’s the kind of guy where the bigger the game is, the better he plays. The more pressure, the more intense the game is, he’ll step up even more.”
“Every practice, every game,” said Decorah quarterback Jacob Kvale, who ran and threw for a touchdown. “He plays 100 percent all the time. He’s a great guy to have on the team. So glad he’s on our team instead of somebody else’s.”
Decorah went wire to wire for its fifth state championship, its first since 1989. The Vikings lost in last year’s 3A finals to LaPorte City Union, were ranked No. 1 preseason and embraced that pressure.
“We had a bad taste in our mouth the whole year,” Jewell said. “We wanted to get back here. This feels a lot better. Last year was just sore and sad.”
It was Heelan (12-2) that was sore and sad this time, as Decorah’s Wing-T offense produced 280 rushing yards. This was a case of old fashioned topping flashy, with Decorah’s offensive line of Peter Kephart, James Ostlie, Tyler Hovey, Eric Smorstad and Andy Hovden continually powering blocks that allowed Jewell and backmate Holt Johansen to get consistent yardage.
Make that even more consistent yardage, after all the intial tackles the two broke. There was no YAC (yardage after contact) stat available, but it had to be substantial. Johansen and Jewell were never tackled on the first try.
The Vikings grabbed a 21-0 early second-quarter lead thanks to picks of 3,000-yard Heelan passer Trent Solsma by cornerback Brent Johnson and linebacker Josh Ihde. Heelan rallied to 21-14 by halftime, but Decorah had a 21-point third quarter to slay the Crusaders.
“We knew we had to come out with a fast start,” Johnson said. “We knew they were going to spread it all over the field.”
“I knew if we could weather that storm at the end of the first half, we’d have a good shot to come out and get at them right away again in the second half,” Kvale said.
Johansen – one of two junior starters in an otherwise all-senior lineup, rushed for a pair of scores for Decorah, with Michael Peter adding a TD catch in the fourth. Great finish for a great team.
“Really a dream team,” Post said. “Pretty solid in all areas of the game, quick for our size of school, physical. We’ve always been a physical team, that’s one of the things we always try to emphasize. We try to power teams and get after them, and these guys really took that to heart. They just excelled at it.”
Here is the game boxscore:
Decorah 49, Heelan 21
AT AT UNI-DOME
|Rushes-yards||22 - 67||55 - 280|
|Comp-Att-Int||13 - 29 - 2||5 - 9 - 0|
|Fumbles-lost||0 - 0||0 - 0|
|Punts-average||4 - 42.2||3 - 30.0|
|Penalties-yards||3 - 15||5 - 58|
Rushing: Heelan – Jack Wegher 13-39 , Connor Niles 2-20 , Trenton Solsma 7-8 Decorah – Josey Jewell 23-160 , Holt Johansen 16-62 , Drew Schwartz 4-29 , Jacob Kvale 5-12 , Andy Strand 2-8 , Dylan Korsness 2-5 , Bryce Pierce 1-4 , Dalton Mull 1-1 , Team 1--1
Passing: Heelan – Trenton Solsma 13-29-3-202 Decorah – Jacob Kvale 4-8-0-85 , Josey Jewell 1-1-0-32
Receiving: Heelan – Connor Niles 7-143 , Philip Jacobson 3-45 , Jimmy Fitzsimmons 1-13 , Connor Spears 1-2 , Jack Wegher 1--1 Decorah – Michael Peter 1-36 , Drew Schwartz 1-32 , Josey Jewell 1-23 , Cole Svestka 1-16 , Brett Johnson 1-10
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Dec-Holt Johansen 4 run (Josh Lee kick)
Dec-Josey Jewell 4 run (Lee kick)
Dec-Jewell 1 run (Lee kick)
SCH-Connor Niles 17 pass from Trenton Solsma (Tyler Stolen kick)
SCH-Connor Spears 2 pass from Solsma (Stolen kick)
Dec-Jewell 47 run (Lee kick)
Dec-Johansen 4 run (Lee kick)
Dec-Jacob Kvale 5 run (Lee kick)
Dec-Michael Peter 36 pass from Kvale (Lee kick)
SCH-Niles 12 pass from Solsma (Stolen kick)