By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
CEDAR RAPIDS – Regina head coach Marv Cook pointed the finger at himself after Friday’s 35-26 loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier in the season opener for both teams.
“Honestly, I made three or four coaching errors in the first half that cost us, deciding to do some things with play calling,” Cook said after watching his team lose for just the third time in its last 85 games. “We probably should have obviously done something else. And then I started chasing the two instead of just kicking. Those are things I just have to get better at.”
The Class 1A Regals faced a daunting task against Xavier, which competes in Class 3A and returned most of its roster from last season, including star running back Maliki Wilson. Xavier also has nearly twice as many players on its roster compared to the Regals.
The Saints scored quickly as Wilson blasted through a huge hole at the line of scrimmage and raced 68 yards for a touchdown on his first carry of the game with 8 minutes, 56 left in the first quarter.
Wilson also helped secure the victory by scoring on a 62-yard run with 49.5 seconds left to play after Regina had trimmed the deficit to two points.
“Right before, I told my linemen, let’s not settle for a first down, we’re going to get this touchdown,” Wilson said of his third and final touchdown of the game. “I just had to go past one guy. The offensive line did all the work. I just did my job and they did their job.”
Wilson, who had been hobbled by cramps, used a stiff arm to get past a Regina defender on his final touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He was inspired to use the stiff arm after watching his friend, Muscatine running back Alphonso Soko, use it so effectively against Cedar Rapids Kennedy on Thursday.
“He gave that stiff arm and I said, `you know what, I’m going to try and do that tomorrow,’” said Wilson, who finished with 279 rushing yards and three touchdowns. “I, thankfully, got past the line. We were just trying to get a first down. Right in the huddle, I looked at all of my linemen and said let’s score. It just all opened up.”
Trailing 7-0, Regina countered with its own big play as senior Brady Bigley scored on a 69-yard run with 2:31 left in the first quarter. However, the point-after kick failed, keeping the Saints ahead 7-6.
Xavier expanded its lead to 14-6 on a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Bryce Schulte with 4:33 left in the second quarter.
Regina then answered back as senior quarterback Tommy Rapp completed a 53-yard touchdown pass to running back Isaac Vollstedt with 3:35 left before halftime.
The Regals attempted a two-point conversion run, but it failed, giving Xavier a 14-12 lead at halftime.
Xavier started quickly on offense in the third quarter as Wilson scored on a 32-yard run with 10:24 left in the quarter.
The Regals refused to wilt, though, as Rapp and Vollstedt hooked up again for a 47-yard touchdown pass with 5:35 left in the third quarter. Cook chose to kick the extra point, which Sam Stein converted, trimming the deficit to 21-19.
Both teams traded touchdowns again before Wilson finally put the game out of reach with his long touchdown scamper in the final minute.
“I will tell them honesty, we played our hearts out,” Cook said. “We’re going watch film and see a lot of things that we need to clean up and coach up better. But they did everything we asked of them. They left their blood, sweat and tears out here. They played their hearts out.”
Rapp passed for 207 yards, while senior Jack Jensen caught seven passes for 119 yards. Jensen also made several nifty plays on defense from his cornerback position.
“It’s a testament to our kids and the way they play,” Cook said. “Guys stepped up and made plays. Jack Jensen and Isaac Vollstedt made some big plays. Tommy Rapp made some big plays for us. We had our chances in the first half. We got stopped on the goal line three straight plays. We had a turnover on the goal line, throwing the ball into the end zone.”
Cook was referring to when Regina failed to score after blocking a punt deep in Xavier territory late in the first quarter.
Rapp also threw three interceptions, including one that was intercepted in the Xavier end zone late in the second quarter.
Cook praised the Xavier coaching staff for pushing the right buttons on offense with regard to play calling.
“Our thought our defense did a good job,” Cook said. “We got lined up in the wrong spots a couple times and they took advantage of it. They’re a brilliant staff. Their coaches are really smart. They find a weak spot and they’re going to exploit it eventually. They made plays when they had to.”
The Regals will have to bounce back in a hurry with rival Solon up next on the schedule this coming Friday at Regina.
“We’ll come back to practice next week and pick up the intensity and focus on the next game,” Jensen said. We’ll learn what we did wrong and get better”
Regina entered Friday’s season opener having won 82 of its last 84 games overall and six consecutive state titles. Xavier was responsible for one of the two losses, edging the Regals 38-35 at Regina in the eighth game of last season.
Wilson said he didn’t feel comfortable about winning Friday’s game until after he scored his third and final touchdown with less than a minute to play.
“I know things can happen in games,” Wilson said. “I know last year against Regina they kicked our butts and we had to fight back every possession.
“Both games were really good games. They’re a really good team. It’s a good rivalry.”
First downs 16 15
Rushes-yards 35-175 47-367
Passing yards 205 43
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 1-15 8-69
Punts 5-35.2 5-37.4
Regina 6 6 7 7 – 26
Xavier 7 7 7 14 – 35
CRX – Maliki Wilson 68 run (Shane Scott kick)
ICR – Brady Bigley 69 run (kick failed)
CRX – Bryce Schulte 3 run (Scott kick)
ICR – Isaac Vollstedt 53 pass from Tommy Rapp (run failed)
CRX – Wilson 32 run (Scott kick)
ICR – Vollstedt 47 pass from Rapp (Sam Stein kick)
CRX – Bryce Schulte 3 run (Scott kick)
– Tommy Rapp 3 run (Stein kikc)
CRX – Wilson 62 run (Scott kick)
Rushing – ICR: Isaac Vollstedt 14-83, Brady Bigley 3-66, Mason Simpson 2-18, Jake Phillips 9-12, Tommy Rapp 1-2, Mike Conlon 5-(-6). Xavier: Maliki Wilson 24-279, Erik Rodriguez 9-74, Quinn Schulte 2-7, Josh Gerke 2-7, Bryce Schulte 11-5.
Passing – Regina: Tommy Rapp 9-23-3-207, Mike Conlon 1-1-0 -2; Xavier: Bryce Schulte 3-9-43.
Receiving – ICR: Jack Jensen 7-119, Isaac Vollstedt 2-100, Jake Phillips 1-minus-2; Xavier: Brett Burns 1-32, Quinn Schulte 2-1.