Falcons State Champions
Posted: 11/17/2007 - by
When the season began, the St. Albert football team vowed to "protect the tradition."
Who knew they'd be adding to it?
In Friday's Class 1A state title game, the Falcons edged Iowa City Regina 7-6 to claim their second-consecutive state championship and third title in four years.
They become the first 1A team to go back-to-back since West Branch accomplished the feat in 1991-92 and are just the seventh squad - in any class - to win three championships in a four-year span.
"It feels amazing," St. Albert quarterback Jake Waters said. "I can't really describe it right now. It hasn't sunk in, but it's amazing."
In what was a No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown, the Falcons scored just one time and played picture-perfect defense in the second half to hold on for a hard-fought win.
"Going in, we knew it would be a tough game," Falcons coach Jim Duggan said. "Championship games usually go down to the wire."
The Falcons came out charging like champs on the game's opening possession, marching 80 yards on a nine-play drive that culminated in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Waters to his brother and teammate Matt Waters.
Jake Waters completed 4-of-4 passes for 36 yards and notched his 19th TD pass of the year. The sophomore went on to throw for 124 of his 139 passing yards in the first half, but Waters says that wasn't exactly the plan.
"We actually wanted to run it more," the quarterback said. "But, we couldn't get to grinding it, so we just went to the pass."
St. Albert reclaimed possession on a fumble recovery by Jesse Parks at the Falcons own 47. A 20-yard reception by Jace Cochran set up a 45-yard field goal attempt, but Jon Recher's try was well short.
The Falcons could not capitalize on the turnover, but Regina would take advantage when St. Albert fumbled on its first possession of the second quarter. On a third-and-9 play, Water was hassled by the Regals' pass rush and coughed up the ball.
Regina took over at the Falcon 46, and a 32-yard run by Bobby Johnson down the right sideline led to a 22-yard Ned Fleming field goal.
Still ahead 7-3, he Falcons had a chance to extend their 7-3 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. St. Albert was headed for a potential score when Tyler Nelson intercepted a Waters pass at the Regina 10-yard line.
With less than a minute before the half, Nick Lyon connected with Max Tunning on a 34-yard catch-and-run. That produced a 35-yard Fleming field goal to pull the Regals within one at the break.
That proved to be the last time Regina would advance across midfield. In the second-half, the Regals made it no further than their own 41-yard line, and the Falcon defense limited their opponents to just 5 yards of total offense in the final two quarters while holding the Regal's potent rushing attack to minus-2 yards.
"We just couldn't establish the run," Regina coach and former Iowa Hawkeye All-American Marv Cook said.
The game remained a nail-biter to the end, however, as St. Albert was unable to tack on any second half points.
The Falcons drove to the Regal 15 with less than five minutes in the game, but a missed field goal attempt gave Regina new life.
A 7-yard sack by Andrew Brown and Matt O'Malley followed by a Tom Gorman interception on the next play ended the Regals last best-chance.
Another interception by Matt Waters with 14 seconds left sealed the victory, St. Albert's 23rd straight win.
"It came down to defense," tailback Tony Knotek said, "and our defense had more heart."
"They get to the ball. They play team defense." Cook said. "They play hard. They hit. They're physical. They play smart."
Going into the season, few expected St. Albert to defend its title after losing a slew of starter's from last year's championship team to graduation.
Duggan says this year's class of seniors made it all happen.
"Those senior came back and they were bound and determined to get back here," he said. "If you get back here, anything can happen, and it did."
"We're state champions again."
St. Albert 7 0 0 0 - 7
Iowa City Regina 0 6 0 0 - 6
Records: St. Albert (13-0), Iowa City Regina (12-1)
Ratings: SWI: St. Albert 1st (Classes A-1A-2A). State: St. Albert 1st (Class 1A); Iowa City Regina 2nd (Class 1A).
©Jacob Hainline, Staff Writer - SW Iowa News 2007