CEDAR FALLS - Council Bluffs St. Albert proved to be a thorn in the side of Emmetsburg again on Saturday afternoon.
For the second consecutive year, the third-ranked E-Hawks (11-2 overall) saw their state football title dreams dashed by the No. 8 Falcons (12-1) in the Class 1A semifinals, dropping an 18-7 defensive slugfest at the UNI-Dome.
"Penalties and mistakes really hurt us (Emmetsburg committed eight penalties for 53 yards and coughed up two fumbles), but we lost to one heck of a football team," EHS head coach Mike Dunlap said. "(The Falcons) are very physical up front and have tremendous athletes. They also have outstanding special teams that helped flip the field position in their favor (yesterday)."
Despite featuring the state's top rushing attack entering the semifinals, Emmetsburg was held to a season-low 109 yards on the ground. Forced to go through the air, the E-Hawks did manage to throw for a season-high 172 yards.
"Our defense certainly performed well, but our offense just didn't do their part in helping them out," said Dunlap, who guided EHS to their previous state crown in 2008 . "I thought we played a lot better (offensively) in the second half, though, after really struggling in the first half."
Andrew Wellik delivered 88 yards and a score on 31 carries for Emmetsburg, which fell behind by double digits at the break and failed to recover. Wellik, the state's leading individual rusher, spoiled St. Albert's potential shutout bid with a 10-yard dash to paydirt at the 5:38 mark of the third quarter. The 200-pound tailback, who was averaging 11.2 yards per attempt prior to Saturday, finished his sparkling senior season with 2,736 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Emmetsburg0 0 7 0- 7
St. Albert3 12 3 0-18
St. Albert - Jon Meyerring (38-yard field goal), 4:24 left first.
St. Albert - Tucker Culjat (11-yard run), 2:45 left second. Kick blocked.
St. Albert - Culjat (26-yard run), :24 left second. Kick blocked.
St. Albert - Meyerring (29-yard field goal), 9:54 left third.
Emmetsburg - Andrew Wellik (10-yard run), 5:38 left third. Nick Merwald kick.
Rushing - Emmetsburg: Andrew Wellik 31-88, Jake Jackson 7-17, Cody Henderson 2-7, Austin McCartan 2-5, Nick Schany 1-1, Team 2-(minus-9). St. Albert: Tucker Culjat 13-90, Cole Herr 18-42, Isaac Finn 3-15, Jon Meyerring 3-8, Team 1-(minus-3).
Passing - Emmetsburg: Jackson 15-20-0-172. St. Albert: Meyerring 1-1-0-6, Culjat 2-4-0-(minus-4).
Receiving - Emmetsburg: Wellik 5-54, McCartan 4-50, Schany 4-49, Henderson 1-11, Shay Mortenson 1-8. St. Albert: Jim Hawk 2-8, Finn 1-(minus-6).
E-Hawk senior quarterback Jake Jackson went an efficient 15-for-20 passing - just six less completions than his season's combined total before yesterday. Wellik was his favorite target, hauling in five catches for 54 yards. Emmetsburg actually registered 281 yards of total offense and 17 first downs compared to only 154 and five for the Falcons. In the second half alone, the E-Hawks dominated time of possession, running 41 plays from scrimmage to just 18 for St. Albert. On its final two drives, however, Emmetsburg misfired on a 25-yard field-goal try and turned the ball over on downs at the Falcon 8-yard line.
Dual-threat signal-caller Tucker Culjat sparked St. Albert with 90 yards rushing and a pair of scores on 13 totes. Culjat reached the endzone from 11 and 26 yards out, respectively, in the second period.
John Meyerring also booted field goals of 38 and 29 yards for St. Albert, which improved to 45-19 all-time in 24 playoff trips. The Falcons, who have reeled off 11 straight victories since a 48-0 Week 2 home loss to 3A crosstown rival Lewis Central, have now outscored their opponents this postseason, 130-21.
Defensively, the E-Hawks received a fumble recovery from senior defensive end Mitch Petersen.
A group of 15 Emmetsburg seniors wrapped up their successful careers 44-5 overall on the gridiron - with four of those losses coming in the playoffs. The E-Hawks, who own nine state championships from three different classes, are now 72-28 all-time in an Iowa record 37 postseason appearances.
"I wasn't sure how good we were early on (EHS suffered a 34-14 home setback to No. 1 (2A) Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley in Week 2), but we continued to improve throughout the season," Dunlap said. "Our seniors provided excellent leadership this year."
Seeking their fifth state crown in school history, the Falcons will now battle top-ranked and two-time defending 2A state champion Iowa City Regina (13-0) in the 1A finals Friday at 11:06 a.m. The unbeaten Regals doubled up No. 2 Dike-New Hartford in Saturday's other 1A semifinal, 42-21.