CEDAR FALLS -- In a battle of two of Class 4A’s top defenses, Lewis Central football and Xavier Cedar Rapids went toe to toe with each other and created an instant classic for the Class 4A championship on Thursday night in Cedar Falls.
After three overtimes, and a roughly 15-minute lighting delay, Lewis Central’s defense made a goal-line stand, stuffing the Saints twice on the one-yard line to win the Class 4A state title 32-24.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” head coach Justin Kammrad said. “I’m so happy for these kids, I’m so happy for the coaches and our community. These kids bought in. Last winter when we all said we were going to do this, everyone bought in. Everyone was there every day and they busted their tails and never wavered.
“They trusted the process and always said if you believe it, you achieve it and these gosh-darned kids put everything they had into this they put their heart and soul into and achieved something that no one can ever take away from them.”
The third overtime had to wait about 15 to 20 minutes after the second overtime as the lights in the dome went off because of a timer.
Eventually, the lights came back as did the Titan offense to the field. The Titans created a third and goal situation before junior quarterback Braylon Kammrad snuck it in from a yard out to score. After the touchdown, junior Luciano Fidone took the snap and ran with it to the end zone for a two-point conversion and had the Titans up again 32-24.
“The ball came a little wobbly off the snap,” Fidone said. “So I took a chance, ran to the outside, and just made it.”
Fidone led the Titans with 39 receiving yards on four catches and a touchdown.
The Saints after two plays marched to the Titan's one-yard line. However, the Titan defense held their ground after two sneak plays from Neal to reject Xavier from its fourth-ever title to earn Lewis Central’s first-ever state title.
After getting off to a 2-2 start to begin the season Lewis Central ends a historic season after winning their last nine games to win the state championship after its first-ever appearance.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Justin Kammrad said. “ For how hard these kids fought, their willingness to take the criticism and willingness to be coached, to do the little things, to come back to practice, to get after it and go back to the basics after week four because we weren’t doing those little things right. It may have been rough on them to do all that again, but they never said a word against it. They toolkit all in stride and the results speak for themselves.”
Lewis Central offense took first dibs to start the first overtime and only needed two plays before Kammrad found Fidone for an eight-yard touchdown pass to put the Titans back in front. However, the Saints only needed two plays themselves before Neal threw a 9-yard strike to Josef Lemker to force a second overtime.
Switching roles, Xavier took possession to start the second overtime. Once again, the Saints needed just two plays before finding the end zone and taking their first lead of the night 24-17.
Needing an answer to keep the game alive, Lewis Central’s first two plays lost a yard thus creating a third down from the 11-yard line. Kammrad faced immediate pressure and scrambled to extend the play and as the junior quarterback was hit, Kammrad found the Kansas State commit Brayden Loftin for the touchdown. Boston Hensley put the point after through the uprights to force a third overtime.
“We run some scramble drills in practice and we knew we had to find a way to get open,” Loftin said. “To be honest I ran the wrong route and I was supposed to run an in route but, I went out and I saw Braylon roll out and I just found a hole in the defense and he found me in the back of the end zone.”
Loftin caught four passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.
The Titan defense came out strong in the first quarter, holding the Saints to just two first downs and intercepting a pass to set up a 30-yard Boston Hensley field goal which gave the Titans a 3-0 lead after a quarter of play.
In the second quarter, Xavier’s offense showed some life but penalties hindered the Saints and forced more punts early on in the quarter. Following a 24-yard circus catch from Fidone eventually led to a two-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Humpal to put the Titans up 10-0 with four minutes left until the half.
The Saints marched down the field and converted a fourth down and 6 play with two minutes to go in the half to eventually bring the ball inside the LC 10-yard line. However, the Titan defense dug deep and held the Saintes to just a field goal with 37 seconds to spare. The 10-3 score would hold for the rest of the half.
It was just the second time this year the Saints had been held without a touchdown in the first half.
“We have a motto that says ‘Why not you?'” senior Hunter Deyo said. “We knew we needed to play strong and we did.”
Deyo led L.C. with 2.5 tackles for loss. The Iowa State commit also had an assisted sack and 4.5 total tackles in the game.
Each team created some offense in the third quarter but none put any points on the board.
Xavier marched inside the Titan’s 10-yard line. However, the Titan defense made another stand as Nick Miller forced the ball free from Xavier quarterback Alex Neal’s hand and Matiyow recovered the ball. However, the Saint defense stood strong themselves and forced the Titans to go three and out with 5:58 left to play.
“My coaches told me to watch the bootleg and I saw the quarterback bootlegging out,” Miller said. “I just went in to hit him and the ball came free and Parker was there to get it.”
Miller had 5.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks to go with a forced fumble.
The Saints finally found the end zone after a 15-yard run from Neal after their offense was aided by a pass interference and a roughing the passer penalty. Nonetheless, the Saintes knotted the game up at 10-10, which ultimately led to some free football.
“It’s crazy,” Braylon Kammrad said. “We knew we had a talented team and it just feels good to finish it like this. We knew after that week four loss, we had to come together. That was a turning point for us. We just had to get back and keep working and it all paid off.”
Braylon Kammrad ended the night 14 for 26 and 121 yards passing and two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown.
“It can’t even put the feeling into words,” Deyo said. “Xavier beat us my freshman year. It feels great to get them back and be able to take home the trophy.
“These guys have been like my brothers and playing together since we were little and while it’s sad to see it end, we got a state championship.”
“It’s just one of those feelings you can’t even describe,” Miller said. “A lot of us had older sibling play as we grew up and I just… No words man. It’s awesome.”
"No one thought we would be here after week four’s loss to Indianola,” Loftin said. “Coach Kammrad told us before this game, ‘Why not us’. To go out this way, it means everything.”
“This was the goal before week one,” Jonathan Humpal said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we kept fighting and we found a way again.”
Humpal ran for 93 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. The junior running back also caught three passes for 23 yards.
“It’s such an amazing feeling,” Fidone said. “I’ve dreamed of this my whole life with my teammates. We fell short last time in my freshman year and now we’re champions”
Lewis Central brings home the trophy as they end the year with a final record of 11-2.
Lewis Central (11-2) 3 7 0 0 7 7 8 -- 32
Cedar Rapids Xavier (11-2) 0 3 0 7 7 7 0 -- 24