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PLAYOFF METTLE

South Central Calhoun ousts Southeast Valley, punches UNI-Dome ticket

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Jordan Khommanyvong of South Central Calhoun celebrates after the Titans' Class 1A quarterfinal victory over Southeast Valley on Friday in Gowrie. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

GOWRIE — For the past three seasons, South Central Calhoun had been on the cusp of a return trip to the UNI-Dome — only to come up just short.

In their fourth and final quarterfinal appearance, the Titan senior class is Cedar Falls-bound.

In a Top-10 rematch against Southeast Valley, the seventh-ranked Titans (9-1) imposed their will on the Jaguars and exacted revenge for a regular-season loss, evening the series when it mattered most with a 26-6 victory.

Now the Titans will face Van Meter in the semifinals. This will be the the first trip to the UNI-Dome for South Central Calhoun since they made back-to-back trips in 2014 and 2015.

The Titan defense rose to the occassion, stopping a potent Southeast Valley offense that has averaged 235 yards on the ground and 346 yards total per contest.

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla: Evan Jacobs of South Central Calhoun makes a catch for a touchdown against Southeast Valley on Friday in Gowrie during a Class 1A quarterfinal.

No. 5 Southeast Valley (9-1) rushed for just 30 yards on the night and managed only 132 yards of total offense. The Titans recovered one Jaguar fumble, and junior Blake McAlister helped the Titans clinch the victory by returning an interception 45 yards for the final touchdown of the contest.

“We’ve gotten to this point how many years and haven’t been able to get over the hump,” McAlister said. “But getting (the clinching win) is something amazing.”

On offense, the Titans mixed up a three-back package, led by McAlister and flanked by Brennan Holder and Jordan Khommanyvong.

McAlister finished the night with 28 carries and 125 yards. He had TD runs of three and five yards.

“I may have been the one with the ball, but it’s the big guys up front getting everything started,” McAlister said. “Every chance I got, I tried to make the most of it and it paid off.”

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla: Cole Corey of South Central Calhoun stiff arms Southeast Valley's Tre Fisher on Friday night in Gowrie.

The rivals went back and forth for 19 minutes before anyone reached the end zone. The Titans broke the scoreless tie with five mintues to go in the second quarter, registering two scores before the end of the half.

After the Titans recovered a fumble at their own 35-yard line, it took eight plays before McAlister plunged into the end zone on a three-yard tote. Quarterback Cole Corey punched in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.

Another Jaguar mistake led to a final score before half. The Titans intercepted a Kolson Kruse pass at their own 40-yard line. With 14 seconds left until the break, Corey threw a perfect fade pass to Evan Jacobs from 23 yards out.

The Titan offense accumulated 168 yards of total offense in the first half, with 139 coming on the ground. Corey was 2-for-2 passing for 29 yards and the touchdown.

After the break, the Jaguars marched down the field to get on the board, capping a 65-yard drive off with a Kruse one-yard plunge. Kruse was 4-for-4 passing on the drive for 64 yards to cut into the Titans’ lead.

“I thought our kids came out and played pretty well against a very good Southeast Valley team,” Titan head coach Bryan Case said. “We were looking to redeem ourselves from the Week 5 loss to the Jaguars, and we were able to do just that.

“It wasn’t pretty. We turned the ball over (twice) way too much and we didn’t finish inside the red zone like we needed to do in the first half, credit to the Southeast Valley defense.”

SV head coach Mike Swieter saw plenty of resilience in his squad, especially when the Jaguars answered to cut the lead in half.

“That drive showed their was no quit in our guys,” Swieter said. “It was huge to stay in the ball game, coming out of the half and getting on the board.”

South Central Calhoun would answer right back with another clock churning long drive (58 yards) with a steady does of McAlister. The Titan junior ran the ball six times on the drive for 29 yards, finishing with his five-yard touchdown scamper.

“We just stayed with the game plan and found a way to pull it out,” Case said. “I truly believe that the loss earlier this year refocused our team and actually brought us closer together.

With the Titans leading 20-6 into the fourth quarter, Aaron Graves pinned SCC on its own three-yard line with a 75-yard punt. It was Graves’ second kick of the season, with the first coming earlier in the game.

The Jaguars turned the Titans away on a three-and-out series and got to the Titan 22 yard line before being turned away on downs.

Southeast Valley took a blow to the roster on the sixth play of the game, when fullback/linebacker Hunter Sorenson left the game with an injured ankle. The loss was key for the Jaguars, as Sorenson is a key part to the blocking scheme and the defensive pressure.

“Losing Hunter was huge,” said Southeast Valley head coach Mike Swieter. “He is a big part of our offense as well as our defensive schemes.”

The Jaguars, who reached the quarterfinals in 2018 as district champs, were coming off a 5-4 campaign in 2019. A year later, they got back to their winning ways with a perfect 7-0 regular season and a nine-game win streak before losing their final contest.

“This group of seniors didn’t win a game in seventh or eighth grade or even as freshmen,” Swieter said. “They came a long way from that to beating South Central Calhoun for the first time in school history and earning the district championship.

“To get nine straight wins was huge. Their are 45 other teams that would like to be in our position. They will never be able to take our district championship trophy away.”

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