Sports

Iowa high school football playoffs: Area semifinal preview

Area capsules for Gazette area semifinal football playoff games. All games are at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

CLASS 3A

No. 8 Western Dubuque (9-2) vs. No. 5 Sergeant Bluff-Luton (10-1)

* Kickoff: 5:30 p.m.

* Playoff path: Western Dubuque upset fourth-ranked Solon in the quarterfinals, 48-13, and third-ranked North Scott in the semifinals, 45-21. SB-L has not played a ranked team, yet, disposing of Sioux City Heelan in the quarters, 42-0, and Spencer in the semis, 27-0.

* Overview: Western Dubuque has been the darkhorse darling of the 3A playoffs. The Bobcats are led by junior quarterback Calvin Harris, a University of Mississippi baseball commit, who has thrown for 2,037 yards and 24 touchdowns, completing 67 percent of his passes. His favorite target is Drake George, who has 63 catches, including 13 TDs. Jake Hosch rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns against North Scott, taking over lead running back duties after Ben Bryant incurred a season-ending knee injury in an early October loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier ... Sergeant Bluff-Luton is the darling of the IHSAA’s new RPI format, which determined playoff seeds and pairings. The Warriors were 3A’s No. 1 despite losing in the regular season to Council Bluffs Lewis Central (ranked second in the RPI), 42-14. Defending champion Cedar Rapids Xavier also went unbeaten in the regular season, yet finished behind SB-L in RPI, due to the Warriors’ strong schedule. Junior quarterback Daniel Wright has thrown for 2,180 yards and 24 touchdowns, to just three interceptions. He has completed 67 percent of his passes. Running back Britton Delperdang has 1,305 yards rushing and 10 TDs.

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CLASS 3A

No. 1 Cedar Rapids Xavier (11-0) vs. No. 2 Council Bluffs Lewis Central (11-0)

* Kickoff: 8:15 p.m.

* Playoff path: Xavier survived No. 7 Pella in the quarterfinals, 14-6, and blasted No. 10 Decorah in the semifinals, 42-6. Lewis Central beat Carroll in the quarters, 51-7, and No. 10 Harlan in the semis, 35-14.

* Overview: This is a game many, many people have looked forward to since the beginning of the season. Most thought it might come in the finals, but the vagaries of the IHSAA’s new RPI system means it comes here ... Xavier is 3A’s defending champion, a team that has had a running clock because of a 35-point lead in 10 of its 11 games. The Saints defense has allowed 40 points all season, an average of 3.6 per game. Xavier’s offense has been primarily a two-headed monster of quarterback Quinn Schulte (2,228 yards rushing and passing, 41 total touchdowns) and running back Braden Stovie (1,528 yards rushing and receiving, 13 total TDs). Leading wide receiver Kyle Moeder was injured in the Pella game and was in street clothes and a leg immobilizer for the Decorah game. His status is unknown ... Lewis Central has the state’s best quarterback in senior Max Duggan. The Texas Christian commit has accounted for a whopping 3,160 yards passing and rushing and 48 TDs. He has thrown but two interceptions. Lewis Central was a Class 4A school last season, knocking off West Des Moines Valley in the first round, before falling to Ankeny Centennial. The Titans’ closest game this season was that 21-point win over Harlan last week. They beat Sergeant Bluff-Luton, which has the No. 1 RPI in the class, 42-14, in the regular-season opener.

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OTHER GAMES

* Class Eight-Player — No. 5 Southeast Warren (12-0) vs. Rockford (10-1), 9 a.m.

* Class Eight-Player — No. 4 Fremont-Mills (10-1) vs. No. 6 New London (10-1), Noon